Saturday, May 7, 2011

Danger from every cide

Today's post is going to be on an issue very near and dear to me. It's something I've been concerned with for years -- long before I was the "health freak" I am today, living on a strict diet, using all natural/organic personal care products, making my own mascara, and giving up toilet paper.

There are so many sources of toxins in the average American's life today. Did you know that scientists have measured the amount of lead in our bones today and compared it with our recent ancestors 100 years ago and discovered that we're about 650 times more toxic with lead than they were? And back then people were exposed to it in all kinds of ways we're not anymore (think paint, piping, etc). We're assaulted from every side with one danger or another. Our plastic storage containers contain chemicals that are making our baby boys turn into girls, our laundry detergent might cause cancer, our shampoo can make us infertile, and the food can be downright scary.

You get the point. With all the advances we've made over the years, there are still all kinds of dangers to avoid in modern life (even if we're no longer running from wild animals). I don't think we should live in fear of these things, but simply do our utmost to avoid known danger, with the knowledge and ability that God gives us. For example, I'm fully convinced that plastic is dangerous but I've yet to be able to afford to make the switch 100% in my kitchen. I still use some plastic storage containers for leftovers because I haven't been able to afford to buy all glass. Yet. But I am making progress. I am trying.

My topic today is the use of pesticides and herbicides. I am going to be focusing on herbicides as I've been spending much of my personal time lately studying the topic of the dreaded weed. I've loved the great outdoors for as long as I can remember. I love everything about it. I love plants, I love open spaces and sunshine, I love dirt, and I love how intricately all of those things work together to create life, through God's amazing designs. A friend of mine took me on a "weed walk" recently in her yard and around the neighborhood (just across the street from me and in my neighborhood!) to show me some of the local wild edibles since I'm still only vaguely familiar with most of Missouri plant life. What she showed me was absolutely incredible and exciting! There are people all across the country feeling distressed about the rising costs of food and all the while they are spraying their yards with dangerous herbicides to kill what we call "weeds" and never bother to learn anything about, when many of these so-called weeds are actually edible and would make a good, albeit small, contribution to the family dining table. It is unfortunate that we have lost so much knowledge about wild edibles. Your backyard full of "nasty" invasive weeds, may in fact be God's free gift of a vegetable garden to you! But whether you want to eat your weeds or not, herbicides are dangerous both to human and animal life due to runoff and even walking and playing in yards sprayed with herbicides (did you know it is common household use that makes up the majority of herbicide use in this country? We're so concerned with the appearance of our lawns that we spray more poison on our lawns than farmers do their crops!). Around 1,500 herbicide mixtures sold in the US contain 2,4-D, which is a proven endocrine disruptor. Its use has been linked to immune system damage, birth defects, and reproductive damage. Other herbicides like glyphosate (an ingredient in the most popular herbicide in the US - RoundUp) are linked to kidney problems, infertility, birth defects and more. Not the kind of substance I want my children, grandchildren, or neighbors kids playing in!

"But I'm only using a little!" People argue. "I'm not using enough for it to be a problem." But you're not alone on the planet, in the US, or in your neighborhood. Your little bit, combined with your neighbor's little bit, and his neighbor's little bit makes up a lot and is being proven more and more to kill wildlife and damage human life. This thing that by itself may have in fact been insignificant runoff is now suddenly significant and combined with other chemicals and health problems is preventing your best friend, your cousin, or your own child from having children of their own.

Studies have even shown that the use of RoundUp doesn't just kill the weeds, it actually damages the quality of the soil it is sprayed on. Glyphosate binds up nutrients necessary for the plant to survive; this is how it kills it. Does this sound like something we want to spray all over our yards?

A few more common herbicide ingredients and their side-effects include:

CHEMICAL:                         SIDE-EFFECT:

Alachlor                                              Eye, liver, kidney, spleen problems, anemia, risk of cancer
Atrazine                                              Cardiovascular and reproductive problems
Dinoseb                                              Reproductive difficulties
Endothall                                            Stomach & intestinal problems
Picloram                                              Liver problems
Simazine                                             Blood problems
2,4,5-TP                                              Liver problems

The last chemical, also called Silvex has been banned since 1985, but is still sometimes detected in water supplies today. So much for minimal effect....


  1. I believe the same. Any small amount of herbicides is too much. We never spray our lawn with anything....but maybe that's because we live in the country and just don't care that much. (we mow at least!) We also got rid of all our plastic drinking glasses a few years ago, and purchased glass containers for leftovers in the fridge that work well but still have a plastic cover.

    We regularly eat wild stinging yummy just lightly heated in the cast-iron skillet with a little garlic and salt. I love that we get our nettle for FREE! I've always wanted to learn more about wild edibles but need a lesson.

    Is the mascara you make yourself waterproof?

  2. I've been wanting to try nettle for a good while now! David and I even looked out by the creek at the church and couldn't find any! :( Maybe later. I was told that chickweed is quite good in soup, so I'm now on a desperate search for some chickweed to try.

    The mascara I make is... somewhat waterproof? Ha. It comes off easily with warm water and soap, but it is oil-based so it doesn't come off running through rain or anything. It does smear fairly easily though, so it wouldn't work well for someone with allergies that was always rubbing their eyes or anything like that.

  3. We LOVE Nettle, so keep looking! Hmmm...I bet there is a book that would tell all the different good wild edibles out there.

    I hate the "poisons" in store-bought mascara, but I cry often enough & rub my eyes that I need waterproof. Is there a way to make homemade mascara that's waterproof? Or do you have to fork the money over to buy a good organic chemical free one from the store?

  4. We have a book called "Wild Edibles of Missouri" that lists all sorts of "weeds", how to use them, what they look like, etc., I've loaned it to a friend recently but once we get it back I'll try to remember to loan it to you, too!

    I would think you may be able to make a pretty good homemade mascara that's waterproof with some beeswax, perhaps. Haven't tried it myself though!

  5. I live in Missouri too! It's crazy how engrained it is in people's minds that "Clover is the enemy!" "If you want your lawn to survive, you HAVE TO use pesticides!" I understand that weeds can choke our grass and that weeds like thistle aren't suitable for kids playing on the lawn. I just don't understand a 100% green lawn. That isn't natural at all. Neither is the use of pesticides that ironically destroy our soil (I didn't know that before reading this post) and find their way to our water supply and the drinking water of animals. We are trained to be blind to the consequences of our convenience. I wish we could instead learn to foresee the impact of our selfishness. Great post!

  6. Small world! :) And there are natural ways to deal with plants you don't want without destroying the soil or poisoning things. Vinegar is a good example of this. Sprayed onto unwanted weeds, they'll die back quickly (sometimes faster than with RoundUp) without doing lasting damage to the world around them! I'm glad you enjoyed this post and learned something from it!

    I think you're right that people need to learn to look at the bigger picture; to see that what they're doing today affects tomorrow. As far as consumers go, I think a lot of the problems with the damage we're doing to the eco-system (and thus ourselves, since we are an inseparable part of that system!) has to do with ignorance more than selfishness in most cases. Most people just have no clue that the liquid they just sprayed on a dandelion to kill it might end up making their dog, or worse yet their child infertile, or cause liver damage or whatever else. The companies that make and sell that garbage tell them it is safe and they believe it. I think more people need to care enough about their impact on the world to get educated instead of remaining ignorant -- it is too easy to become educated in this day and age with the internet to use that as an excuse for anything! And even if you can't afford internet in your own home, you can still access it for free at the library!