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The Toxic Brew in Our Yards

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Organic Transitions Page and our Millions Against Monsanto Page.

IN much of the country, it's time to go outside, clean up the ravages of winter and start planting. Many of us will be using chemicals like glyphosate, carbaryl, malathion and 2,4-D. But they can end up in drinking water, and in some cases these compounds or their breakdown products are linked to an increased risk for cancer and hormonal disruption.

Some of those chemicals are also used by farmworkers, and there is a growing recognition that they can be hazardous. The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing regulations that will limit farmworkers' exposure to dangerous pesticides and is accepting comments on these changes through June 17. These new rules are meant to reduce the incidence of diseases associated with pesticide exposure, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease and lung cancer.

Homeowners who use these toxins on their yards and gardens are exposing themselves to the same risks. They aren't necessary. We don't need them to have pleasant environments. Together we can make a substantial improvement in our water quality simply by refraining from using synthetic pesticides, weedkillers and fertilizers on a routine basis. Occasional localized use to deal with an otherwise uncontainable infestation, or to deal mindfully with an invasive species, is not the problem, but routine, frequent and widespread use is.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service says homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals per acre than farmers do. Some of these chemicals rub off on children or pets, but most are washed with rainwater into our streams, lakes and rivers or are absorbed into our groundwater. These are the sources of our drinking water, and tests show these chemicals are indeed contaminating our water supply.