As if links to Parkinson's disease, diabetes and obesity, cancer, low sperm counts and other reproductive health problems, and childhood developmental problems and diseases were not enough ... or that pesticide residue is common on foods, or that that children are even more susceptible than previously thought, or that pesticides stick around in the home for decades after being used, or that the EPA is slow to remove known toxic pesticides from the market ... now there's another reason to avoid using pesticides.
Not only are the chemicals designed to poison insects, weeds and other pests toxic ... but the other so-called inert ingredients in pesticide mixtures may be as well.
A new study found that polyethoxylated tallowamine (a.k.a. POEA), an inert ingredient in Monsanto's popular herbicide Roundup (used on farms and on residential lawns) is "more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself," according to an account of the research by Beyond Pesticides. Maybe it shouldn't be all that surprising, considering that POEA is designed to infiltrate plant cells, so the pesticide can gain access for the kill.
Worse, law does not require pesticide makers to list inert ingredients on packaging, so there's no way to know what other undocumented hazards may be lurking there. This study may be a "tip of the iceberg" kind of discovery. As Beyond Pesticides writes:
"For years, scientists and activists have been calling for inert disclosures. In 2006, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, along with Beyond Pesticides and other allies, filed a legal petition challenging the EPAs policy of secrecy on these inert ingredients. The court found that manufacturers are not able to protect inerts as proprietary from competitors, but only keep the ingredients secret from consumers and users. An agency decision on the issue is due this fall. A December 2006 commentary in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences journal Environmental Health Perspectives calls for improvements in pesticide regulation and 'inert' ingredient disclosure, citing an extensive body of literature illustrating the concern over related human and environmental health effects. In May 2009, the California State Senates Health Committee passed legislation that requires the disclosure of inert ingredients in pesticides before they are approved for use by state regulators, and that provides public health agencies and emergency responders timely access to complete ingredient lists of aerial pesticides."
Avoid pesticide residue on foods by learning the Dirty Dozen foods most likely to have pesticides, and by investigating a great new resource from the Pesticide Action Network at whatsonmyfood.org. Choosing organic foods, which are grown without chemical pesticides, as often as possible will reduce the chance of your child being exposed to pesticides inadvertently at the dinner table.
Talk to your school administrators, neighbors and friends about their pesticide usage. In most cases, when faced with a pest problem, nontoxic "integrated pest management" can achieve the same or better results.
To ward off ticks and mosquitoes, look for natural insect repellents that shun the use of harsher manmade chemicals, whenever possible. Check back to The Daily Green later this summer for recommendations about natural mosquito repellents that really work.
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