Pesticides and Alternatives

Our Position on Pesticides

The Friends of the Bayfield River have the position that pesticides for COSMETIC use (i.e. the perfect lawn) should be banned for the protection of the health of the residents. We do not intend to impose our views on the agricultural industry. Substantial research around the world has demonstrated that pesticides are harmful to all living creatures and plants. The notes that follow expand on the details of this research.

Why the Concern About Pesticides?

Pesticides are poisons, so in themselves they are dangerous. Farmers count on the levels being low enough not to affect humans while controlling insects. The main health fear associated with pesticides is not that someone will eat a sprayed apple and get cancer, but that residues will build up over the years and cause disease to develop slowly.

Pesticide formulations may contain as little as 2% of the “active” ingredient. The rest is made up of inert ingredients such as solvents and emulsifiers. These may be benzene, formaldehyde, or some combination of 3,000 other chemicals. The combinations are “trade secrets”. Although the ingredients of pesticides are tested, they are not done so in combination and the combined effects may amplify their toxicity as much as 1000 times.

Fat soluble pesticides accumulate over time in our body and are released at potentially toxic levels when illness results in our fat reserves being metabolized. A woman who spends a large part of her life exposed to such pesticides, risks having the pesticides released in the breast milk for her newborn. Children whose parents used garden pesticides increase the likelihood of leukemia, brain cancer, behaviour problems and suppressed immune systems. Hormone disrupting pesticides may cause higher rates of breast cancer, lower sperm count and reduced intelligence.

Agriculture Canada, in a 3 year study, found the herbicide atrazine (hormone disruptor) in the Grand River 90% of the time and 2, 4-D 32% of the time. Pesticides break down the soil by killing organisms creating an imbalanced soil system which may cause soil infertility and pest outbreaks. Pesticides drift. A recent study has shown that radioactive pesticides sprayed in England were found 7 days later in Texas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 500,000 people world wide are affected by pesticides with a 10% death rate. The main ingredient of lawn pesticides is the main ingredient of Agent Orange. (Vietnam) Pesticides are the 2nd most common cause of poisoning in young children.  Organophosphates (and others) are designed to act as nerve poisons. Name brand products containing this agent are banned on US golf courses and sod farms but are allowed on lawns and gardens. DDT is banned in the developing nations.

Alternative Methods of Lawn Care

  1. High mowing discourages weed and insect problems. (2.1/2 to 3” – 6 to 8 cm). Blades stay stronger and shade the roots, preventing drying soil and creates longer, stronger roots.
  2. Limit cut to 1/3 of the grass blade. Sharp blades won’t damage grass minimizing disease.
  3. Leave clippings on lawns as they are nutrients reducing by 1/3 the need for fertilizers.
  4. Exposed soil allows weed seeds to land and germinate. The use of drought tolerant grasses reduces watering needs (fescue and perennial rye).
  5. Water deeply (1”) once a week when required in the early morning or evening.
  6. Gently rake lawn in late spring to remove excessive leaf debris. Wait until grass is not spongy as roots can be damaged. Good lawns require about 15 cm (6”) of top soil.
  7. Ants and worms are best aerators (these are killed with pesticides). Removing small plugs of soil reduces compaction and increases water retention. Best not done when weeds are germinating.
  8. Use slow release granular organic fertilizer such as compost, manure, rock mineral, bone and blood-meal, or kelp. Do this in the fall. Compost from your composter is an excellent source of nutrients. Cow and sheep manure works well.
  9. Develop a tolerance for a few weeds and bugs. Most insects are not harmful and are critical for a balanced ecosystem (vital pollinators for our food). Certain insects eat others that are considered undesirable. Over 90% of insects in a lawn are beneficial; a healthy lawn can tolerate some pests without stress or damage. Pesticides kill insects

Alternatives to Chemicals

  1. Non-Toxic Cleaners Oven: Make a paste of baking soda and water. Scrape off burnt spots and apply the paste and scrub.
  2. Kitchen Cleaner: Baking soda on a nonscratch surface and vinegar and water mixture on others.
  3. Window: Put 75 ml of vinegar for every litre of water in a spray bottle.
  4. Glass Cleaner: Blend 75 ml of vinegar, a spoonful of cornstarch and a litre of warm water. Apply with sponge and wipe dry. No streaks!
  5. Toilet Bowl: Sprinkle baking soda around the inside of the bowl, add a few drops of white vinegar, let sit & then brush.
  6. Tub & Tile: Mix 400 ml of baking soda , 125 ml liquid soap, 125 ml of water and a few spoonfuls of vinegar. Apply, scrub and wipe.
  7. Remove mildew: Vinegar and salt.
  8. Silver Polish: Put a sheet of aluminum foil into a plastic or glass bowl. Sprinkle the foil with salt and baking soda and fill with warm water. Soak silver in the bowl. Tarnish migrates to the foil. Dry and Buff.
  9. Crystal: Try a mixture of vinegar, water and a small amount of baking soda. Pour on a soft cloth and rub.
  10. Brass Cleaner: Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with salt and rub the lemon on the metal. Buff.
  11. Copper Cleaner: Make a paste with equal parts white vinegar, flour and salt. Leave on for an hour and then buff with a cloth.
  12. Rust Remover: Vinegar can help remove rust on bolts.
  13. Drain Cleaner: Pour 125 ml of baking soda down the sink and add at least a cup of vinegar. Put the cover on the drain and wait a few minutes. Finish by rinsing through with a mixture of salted boiling water.
  14. Drain Cleaner: Pour 125 ml of baking soda down the sink and add at least a cup of vinegar. Put the cover on the drain and wait a few minutes. Finish by rinsing through with a mixture of salted boiling water.
  15. Drain Cleaner: Pour 125 ml of baking soda down the sink and add at least a cup of vinegar. Put the cover on the drain and wait a few minutes. Finish by rinsing through with a mixture of salted boiling water.

Bibliography (Partial). McDonald, Melissa: Banning Pesticides Use in the Urban Environment. 1997 World Resource Institute, NSAEHA: Fed Fumble Pesticide Progress. The S.T.A.T.E. Foundation: 1996. Poison in the Grass Rachel’s Environmental Health: 1998 Environment Canada. 1991 Environmental Concentrations of Urban Pesticides