PESTICIDE FREE LIVING by Wendy Nadherny Fachon
Some cities around the country are adopting pesticide-free practices in the management of their lands, as they recognize the negative health and environmental impacts associated with toxic chemical treatments. The City of Stamford, CT, for example, has passed an organic land ordinance restricting toxic pesticides and fertilizer on public property. The City of Providence, RI, has launched the “Pesticide Free PVD” campaign, which goes even further and educating residents and recommending toxic-free practices for the care of their own properties.
Pesticides are chemicals sprayed on plants to kill unwanted pests. The problem with this is that pesticides will also kill beneficial pests, like praying mantis, ladybugs, bees, butterflies and other pollinators. After a steady rain, pesticides seep into groundwater and run off into rivers, where these chemicals poison aquatic insects, fish, amphibians, birds and other wildlife.
Conventional farmers use pesticides and herbicides, such as Roundup. The active ingredient in Roundup is glysophate, which kills broad leaf weeds, and is now also known to be carcinogenic. Residues of agricultural chemicals can be found in everyday foods and beverages, including cooked meals, water, wine and fruit juices. Residues can remain even after washing and peeling fruits and vegetables. And, while the concentrations might meet the “legislatively determined” levels of safety, “safe limits” may underestimate the real health risk of simultaneous exposure to two or more chemical substances, as well as cumulative or synergistic effects. Pesticide residues have been detected in human breast milk, raising concerns about prenatal exposure and health effects in infants.
Children of all ages can come into contact with chemicals that have been sprayed to eradicate mosquitoes, grubs, poison ivy and other unwanted pests and weeds from school grounds and city parks. Once people are aware of the downside of these chemicals, there are many ways to minimize exposure. People can shop organic. They can reach out to municipal leaders and advocate for pesticide-free practices. People can also adopt non-toxic practices in caring for their own lawns and gardens. Here are a few tips for going pesticide-free:
- Remove weeds by hand.
- Water sparingly and avoid watering in the heat of the day.
- Mow less and allow lawn to grow to 4 inches to support stronger roots. Taller grass also supports native pollinators and increases beneficial insects.
- After mowing, fertilize naturally by leaving grass clippings on the lawn. Fine grass pieces are easily digested by soil microorganisms, creating nitrogen rich fertilizer.
- Leave fallen leaves on your lawn year-round, mow over the leaves to add nutrients to the grass, or leave them in your gardens and remove the leaves in late Spring. Ditch the leaf blower! Leaf blowers remove the organic layer of the soil, an important over-wintering habitat for native pollinators and important insects like fireflies.
And, there is more people can do. Listen to the Story Walking Radio Hour’s “Pesticide Free” episode, and check out the resource links on the “Pesticide Free” podcast page.
Wendy Fachon is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine and Sustainable Living News and host of the Story Walking Radio Hour on the syndicated Dreamvisions 7 Radio Network. Visit dreamvisions7radio.com and search out her podcasts on sustainable living.
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