Gardening and lawn care has changed dramatically in the last ten years. As the dangers inherent in the use of pesticides and insecticides have become better known, a bevy of alternative methods and reduced risk pesticides and insecticides have been approved for use by the EPA. However some risks remain and it is important to always use caution and precautionary measures when applying either pesticides or insecticides.
What are Pesticides and Insecticides?
Pesticides are chemical or biological agents used to control, repel, attract, or kill any organism deemed a pest. Various pests include insects, weeds, rodents, certain fish, fungi, molds, algae, and mollusks. Types of pesticides include herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, algicides and many others. An insecticide is simply a specialized pesticide designed specifically to control or kill insect populations.
Health Risks and Environmental Dangers
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, millions of agricultural workers suffer from pesticide poisoning every year. And as much as 98% of sprayed pesticides reach a destination other than their intended target. Besides gastrointestinal problems, nausea, and body aches, many pesticides contribute to a horrifying list of health risks including:
– Increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, and soft tissues sarcoma according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
-An increased risk of developing diabetes according to The National Institute of Health.
-A 70% increase in developing Parkinson’s Disease even in people with low amounts of exposure according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
-And the Natural Resources Defense Council found that pregnant women, infants, and children are particularly susceptible to many pesticides with increased instances of brain cancer, leukemia, birth defects, lower birth weights, fewer nerve cells, and brain damage.
Reduced Risk Pesticides and Insecticides
Fortunately as more studies revealed extreme health risks associated with traditional pesticides and insecticides; many healthier, safer, and more environmentally sound products have hit the marketplace. However it is always best to use caution even when working with many reduced risk pesticides. Wear a protective mask and gloves. Don’t apply them to areas where children play or pets forage. Just because they are sold in the grocery store and have cartoon animals and insects on the label does not mean they should be handled by or applied to areas inhabited by pregnant women or children.
Biologically-based pesticides, such as pheromones and microbial pesticides are becoming increasingly popular. In addition, the EPA has registered a large number of reduced-risk pesticides in recent years. I have had success with a variety of products and techniques, but prefer to use as many natural pesticides and insecticides as I can before even considering traditional pesticides. The possible risks health risks to my family and their environment is simply not worth it.
Reduced Risk Pesticides:
Spinosad-One of the more popular reduced risk insecticides; its active ingredient was derived from the soil of an abandoned rum distillery in the Caribbean. Since its discovery the bacterium has never again been found in nature. It causes rapid excitation of an insect’s central nervous system, but has a low toxicity level for mammals and many beneficial insects such as ladybugs. Use it on fruit flies, caterpillars, leafminers, thrips, sawflies, spider mites, fire ants, and leaf beetles. There are a number of brands available on the market such as: Green Light, Monterey Organic Garden Spray, and National Guard Spinosad.
*Cinnamon Oil-Repels mosquitoes and can be used to kill insect larvae.
*Garlic-Recently approved for pesticide use in Canada. Soak soft garlic in water. Use as an insect repellant spray.
*Tobacco-Soak extra tobacco from old cigarette butts and cigars (remove the filters) in water. Use for spray against aphids, whiteflies and other insects. Don not use on food. Nicotine is toxic to humans.
*Stinging nettle-Boil a bucket of stinging nettle, strain, and let sit for one day. Thin with water, brown sugar, or milk. Use as a spray against caterpillars and aphids.
*Beer-Put a splash of beer in a shallow dish to attract slugs which drown in the liquid.
*Daffodils-Boil a handful of daffodils in a liter of water, strain and let sit for one day. Thin with water and use as a spray against molds.
Trouble on the Farm: Growing Up with Pesticides in Agricultural Communities, NRDC
Roxanne Khamsi, Pesticide exposure raises risk of Parkinson’s, New Scientist
M. P. Montgomery, F. Kame, T. M. Saldana, M. C. R. Alavanja, and D. P. Sandler, Incident Diabetes and Pesticide Exposure among Licensed Pesticide Applicators: Agricultural Health Study 1993 – 2003, NIH
Linda A. McCauley, W. Kent Anger, Matthew Keifer, Rick Langley, Mark G. Robson, and Diane Rohlman, Studying Health Outcomes in Farmworker Populations Exposed to Pesticides, NIEHS
Environmental Protection Agency