Avoid toxic pesticides for health of people, local environment

Insecticides and herbicides increase the risk of harm to our island and all its inhabitants.

  • Wednesday, February 6, 2019 2:12pm
  • Opinion
Diane Emerson (Courtesy Photo).

Diane Emerson (Courtesy Photo).

What makes Vashon a great place to live? Some would say the views and closeness of mountains, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Peninsula. Others might mention how easy it is to buy local organic food, hike an island trail, walk a beach, watch salmon spawn, eagles nest, herons fish and butterflies flutter. Some love the great community of people and culture. Some love knowing our island is home to coyotes, the occasional bear and cougar, seals, otters and beaver, that some days the ferry stops to allow orcas or grey whales to pass first. And yet, with all these wild creatures and an island that is 70 percent forested, we are close to a major metropolitan area. Those of us lucky enough to live here know how unique and precious this place is.

And yet, the use of toxic pesticides continues and increases the risk of harm to our island and all its inhabitants. None of us live far from a stream or Puget Sound. Vashon-Maury residents are responsible for half the shoreline of King County. As a result, the chemicals we choose to use can have an impact far beyond our own properties.

Public awareness has been growing of the problems caused by toxic pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides and other “cides’.” People are calling on retailers to stop carrying the worst offenders and stock safe alternatives. Costco is the latest company to move away from toxic pesticides. In January, they decided not to order any Roundup products or other herbicides containing glyphosate for their U.S. warehouses in 2019. Costco is the second largest retailer in the world, with over 200,000 employees and more than 750 warehouses. Who knew?

Garden Green, a community initiative we lead, is organizing a community forum for people to learn more about safe alternatives to three of the riskiest herbicides sold and used on Vashon: Roundup, Weed & Feed and Preen.

The active ingredient in Weed & Feed products is 2,4-D. It is rated high in hazard to humans, pets and wildlife at the Grow Smart Grow Safe website. This rating is based on a review of the scientific literature by a scientist at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services. Here is part of their review:

“The short-term exposure to a child entering treated turf grass can cause an exposure that Thurston County rates as high in hazard. The short-term exposure to an adult performing yardwork in treated turf is also considered high in hazard for toxicity. The risk to a residential applicator, mixing a product and using a hose-end sprayer for a broadcast application to 0.5 acres of turf, is considered high in hazard.”

Trifluralin, the active ingredient in Preen pre-emergent herbicide, “has been documented to cause vertebral deformities in fish at low concentrations (1.7 – 23 micrograms/L), even for short exposure durations” according to the National Marine Fisheries Service in their final Biological Opinion of EPA’s Registration of Pesticides Oryzalin, Pendimethalin and Trifluralin, May 31, 2012.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup and other herbicides. Glyphosate-based herbicides have been classified as probable human carcinogens and known endocrine disruptors. Recent studies also now link glyphosate-based herbicides to Parkinson’s disease, harm to bees and more.

At the forum, we will have a number of speakers, and time for questions. We will have many informational handouts to share on pesticides and their alternatives, a Green Gardening Calendar and even guidance on “Talking to Your Neighbors About Pesticides”.

Why might you want to attend?

  • Join with other community members who would like to know how they can help reduce the use of toxic pesticides and protect our salmon streams, our pollinators, and our people;
  • Ask questions of the expert presenters about your own lawn and garden;
  • Find out about easy ways to deal with weeds that don’t involve toxic chemicals;
  • Show your support for the effort to reduce the use of toxic pesticides in our community;
  • Get science-based information on the impact of these herbicides, and their alternatives;

The forum will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at Chautauqua Elementary. A link for more information on the event is available here.

Join us to help keep Vashon a safe and amazing place for all its inhabitants, including the baby salmon our island nurtures before they swim off into the ocean for amazing adventures.

— Diane Emerson and Michael Laurie work in many areas of sustainability. For more information on alternatives to toxic pesticides, see gardengreen.org.

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