Celebrate spring ­ nix the chemicals

Celebrate spring � nix the chemicals By April Gawboy Holman Now is the season of rebirth. But it is also the season many homeowners � and businesses � start thinking about the arsenal of chemicals they'll be putting on their lawn. It is estimated that the average homeowner applies up to seven times the amount of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and weed killer to his or her lawn than the average farmer would apply to the same amount of crop land.

Especially popular is the use of 2,4-D. It was the major component of the herbicide Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. 2,4-D depletes the blood's ability to carry oxygen and has been linked to non-hodgkins lymphoma. Exposure to herbicides has long been thought to be a cause of leukemia and other bone marrow related diseases.

A recent article in the Des Moines Register linked two commonly used pesticides with Parkinson's disease. A government ban on Dursban last year was the result of research that proved this popular pesticide caused neurological damage to children. DBCP, a notorious cancer-causing pesticide caused sterility due to testicular atrophy.

Over half of the chemicals in our environment have not been properly tested. Little is known of synergistic effects. Chemical fertilizer mixed with weed killer increases the toxicity of the other by 10 times. Unfortunately, this is exactly how many homeowners apply it to their lawns (under such product names as Weed n' Feed, etc.)

Effective alternatives are available. Organic fertilizers which do not leach harmful nitrates into the water table help to build the soil rather than killing everything off (requiring more and more chemical fertilizer at a higher and higher cost both financially and environmentally.) Mechanical maintenance, including soil aeration, watering, and frequent mowing do a lot to keep a lawn healthy. A wonderful product is available on the market today which contains corn gluten, highly effective in suppressing weed seeds, if applied in the spring or late fall. (From The Ground Up � 624-9504 � carries it).

Keeping children away from chemically sprayed lawns will help keep them healthy � unfortunately this is not always possible since most of Vermillion's athletic fields, parks and school yards � even day care centers � are sprayed.

Ironically, these same chemicals can cause learning and behavioral problems in the same kids trying to learn new material or get along peaceably on these grounds. The Vermillion School District does attempt to limit their school ground spraying of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to the periods of time when school is out of session. This does not help the people who live around school property, or students, such as athletes, who are using the grounds in-between times however � and they still spray the kitchen area with pesticides, sometimes in the middle of a school week.

"Demand" was used in the middle, high and Austin schools last year on Sept. 20. Allergic responses to this pesticide can range from mild to severe skin rashes to sneezing and other respiratory problems, such as asthma, sinusitis, and bronchitis.

Commonly used pesticides

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are responsible for such problems as insomnia, depression, and aggression � and impair our bodies ability to function � yet we seem to be using more and more as the chemical companies continue to push more and more, for their profit, certainly not ours. It's a myth that anything can't be grown without chemicals. We've only had the majority of what's out there since WWII. How did the human race survive until then? Did you know cancer was a rarity before then?

Cancer in children was almost unheard of. What is happening? Now we're acting as though it's another sickness like the common cold. Instead of barn raisings, these days we get together for fund raisings for victims of cancer! How times have changed. Consider the time, money, and energy involved in caring for those effected. Just say "no" this year. See if you and your children don't feel a whole lot better.

Post script: Gov. Janklow has just announced a state-wide "war against weeds." State transportation departments have been told to fight weeds "as aggressively as the law allows" in road ditches across the state. State parks and landowners are not exempt. (Custer State Park is requesting an inmate work crew to do the spraying � gee, what an ingenious way to curb the prison population!) Do call your Extension office for information on biological weed control.

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