Garden December 22, 2006 8:51 PM
BANISH PESTICIDES FROM YOUR GARDEN
by Katherine Noyes
Pesticides have become so ubiquitous today that we often don't even notice or think about them. But pesticides — including the lawn chemicals and herbicides routinely used in countless gardens nationwide — have serious health and environmental consequences. Many of the most commonly used pesticides have been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens, yet they are used on a breathtaking scale: Each year Americans use hundreds of millions of pounds of these cancer-causing chemicals, according to the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.
Besides causing cancer, pesticides can damage our nervous, hormone and immune systems, and have been found to compromise our ability to reproduce. Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of pesticides. A number of research studies have found higher instances of brain cancer, leukemia and birth defects in children with early exposure to pesticides, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
Wildlife and the environment also suffer from our use of herbicides, lawn chemicals, insecticides and other chemical poisons. Pesticides pollute virtually every lake, river and stream in this country, and the consequences can be deadly. For example, runoff of Roundup, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, has been found to be highly lethal to amphibians, according to a recent study by the University of Pittsburgh.
The irony is that pesticides are usually not necessary for either a bountiful crop of good produce or a beautiful garden. Myriad alternative approaches are being used successfully by organic farmers and home gardeners alike without adding more poisons to the environment.
Try using safe alternatives to pesticides in your home and garden. Many pest problems can be avoided altogether through routine maintenance. Others can be eliminated via a variety of non-chemical techniques. For suggestions, visit the National Resources Defense Council, the Pesticide Action Network North America, or Beyond Pesticides.
When disposing of the pesticides you won't be needing anymore, be sure to do it responsibly.
Never flush pesticides down the toilet or dump them in the garbage, both of which may contaminate soil or drinking water. Instead, check with your town's public works department about how to dispose of hazardous chemicals.
If your town uses pesticides in public areas, ask town officials to stop. The price of pesticides — especially to the health of the community and environment — is simply too high.
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