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How Our Regulatory System Misjudges Pesticides and Risks Our Health

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"A Who's Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones -- we had better know something about their nature and their power."

-- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring 1962

There is a reason why our springs still have bald eagles, screeching falcons and wave-skimming pelicans on this Earth Day. The reason is Rachel Carson, who died 50 years ago this month -- just two years after her book "Silent Spring" alerted the world to how pesticides like DDT had infiltrated and were poisoning the very building blocks of life.

Today, DDT is banned in the U.S. and many of the creatures it had nearly extinguished have rebounded, but the plague of pesticides Carson warned about continues to infiltrate our lands, our air, our water, and many of Earth's creatures, among them ourselves. It's a plague hard to fight and hard to protect ourselves against -- in part because our regulatory system treats the chemicals as if they had rights; safe until proven guilty.

Safe? Tell that to farmworkers and families who live and work within the drift of pesticides so that they are forced to feel the chemicals upon their bodies, in their hair, in the breaths they take, and upon their eyes.

Not harmful? Observe the rapid demise of pollinating bees across this country. Long-lasting pesticides such as the neonicotinoids were developed to replace sometimes more odious compounds. But it's hard to imagine something more odious than these neonics, which are sprayed on scores of fruits, vegetables and ornamentals, penetrating the plants' vascular systems, making them poisonous to bees and others. Honeybees and bumblebees literally dropped from the sky where these compounds have been applied.       
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