Letter To The Editor: Issues Concerning Pesticide Use


Los Alamos
“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare said. 
How many times do we have to combat the use of pesticides? Rachel Carson’s lessons in “Silent Spring” must be revisited today. The chemical industry has become stronger in protecting and increasing its use of pesticide poisons. Now, two of the agro giants, Dow and Monsanto are battling each other’s products to kill super weeds, which were created by the use of pesticides in the first place.

Hummingbirds, as well as other pollinators, are vital to our ecosystem. Bees, butterflies, bats, wasps, beetles, the air, and some mammals help pollinate our flowers and plant foods. Their disappearance from the earth is monstrous, and is due in large part to the use of pesticides. 

Because some Los Alamos residents are reporting the absence or dwindling numbers of hummingbirds, it is important to do what we can to reduce pesticide use.

Mary Deinilein, an education specialist at the Smithsonian National Zoo Migratory Bird Center explains how these chemicals affect non-targeted pests. These are some possible direct effects on survival and/or reproduction:

  • eggshell thinning;
  • deformed embryos;
  • slower nestling growth rates;
  • decreased parental attentiveness;
  • reduced territorial defense;
  • lack of appetite and weight loss;
  • lethargic behavior (expressed in terms of less time spent foraging, flying, and singing);
  • suppressed immune system response;
  • greater vulnerability to predation;
  • interference with body temperature regulation;
  • disruption of normal hormonal functioning;
  • and inability to orient in the proper direction for migration.
Because pesticides can affect non-target pests, they can also destroy the food, feeding area, and habitat as well as the environment and human health. 

Other man-made bird threats, which are preventable, are these:

  • Roaming and feral cats
  • Feeders that are dirty or have rancid food
  • Window collisions
These websites provide information that I rely on for pesticide alternatives and general pesticide education:

Pesticide.org (Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides) 

School of Public Health at Harvard 
Beyond Pesticides 
Pesticide Action Network North America 
American Bird Conservancy 

These films are available at Mesa Public Library:

  • The world According to Monsanto 
  • Food, Inc.
An especially troubling problem is the effects on children when we use pesticides at school, in parks, and at home. 
Beyond Pesticides, in a fact sheet  titled “Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix,” details the common chemicals used and associated health effects. Of these, The 
County uses Glyphosate, (Roundup), Dicamba and 2,-4D and Trimec. 
There are 72 percent “inert” or non-identified ingredients in the Trimec formula. In a new study suggesting pesticides may be associated with the health and development of children, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health have found that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticideswidely used on food cropsis related to lower intelligence scores at age 7. 
One of the Ten Ways to protect children from pesticides suggested by PANNA is to Make schools pesticide-free, inside and out. Another way is and to make public places safe for kids, many of whom spend hours at playgrounds and fields.  

Organophosphates are neurotoxins and were first developed as chemical warfare. Glyphosate, or Roundup is an organophosphate and is used by the County streets department and by the parks department. 2-4D is an “unclassified” chemical and has been used by the government for 70 years. 

Dow is producing 2-4D corn seeds, meaning it is resistant to the pesticide. More cases of soft tissue carcinomas and non-Hodgkins lymphomas are being reported in association with their use. Higher rates of birth defects of the circulatory and respiratory systems are reported by EPA in areas with higher residues of this chemical. 
These two harmful pesticides are used repeatedly by the County Streets and Parks., and possibly by LAPS.

While the federal government addressed some problems with bees in the National Pollinator Health Strategy, the final report allowed the existence of many polluting pesticides.

Scientist Paul Ehrlich has compared pesticides to heroin in that “they promise paradise and deliver addiction.” Pesticide use leads to dependency by killing not only the targeted pests but also the natural predators and parasites of those pests and through the development of resistance in the pests. 

Treated seeds and plants are able to tolerate pesticides. Corn, and soybean growing have been taken over by Monsanto. It is difficult for farmers to buy untreated seeds.
Monsanto has actually taken ownership of seeds resulting from their treated plants.  

Consideration of Genetically Modified Organisms GMO) is a separate issue. The YMCA is growing organic produce on North Mesa Park land for residents. What was the effect of drift from the nearby pesticides used in the stables and arenas? 

Pesticide drift is a major rhreat to organic farming. GMOs are largely resistant to Roundup, and now 2-4D. Growing these crops is harmful to the soil, to wildlife, and human health. http://www.beyondpesticides.

My interest in pesticides emerged when we came back from living in Virginia for 2 years. Our rented house was in an upscale neighborhood. It came with a lawn service that used pesticides, and an underground tank farm spill. 

My husband developed a chronic disease, first diagnosed as non-Hodgkins lymphoma, my Scottie developed cancer, and I later became asthmatic. Throughout the ordeal, EPA assured us that our neighborhood was safe.
The Star oil company of Saudi Arabian ownership bought over 100 properties and established an effective public relations effort to re-establish the neighborhood.  
When we returned to New Mexico, I began to appreciate the clean environment we shared. Please tell your councilors, the parks department. streets departments and their department heads that you don’t want these pesticides. They harm children, pollinators and every other life. 
You are obligated to inform yourself about the risks and alternative, non-chemical solutions. Your government has decided to use pesticides as the only way to battle weeds, insects, and other “pests.” 
You pay the government to poison us, and you have the responsibility of protecting our health and the health of the environment. We can make this a pesticide-free community, as many others have done.

We seem to have overlooked the wisdom expressed by John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”