Thanks to Guest Author, Ellie Goldberg, health-kids.info

BE A WISE CONSUMER

Don’t be fooled by names that sound “environmentally friendly.” You need to be cautious and skeptical to avoid being poisoned.

A company named “EnviroGreen” or “Organo-Lawn” doesn’t mean that you are safe. Don’t be fooled by a picture of a tree, a child, a rabbit, a dog or a sunrise on the label​.

Don’t trust ​claims such as “safe” or “natural.” Words that sound tame but mean “poison” include “weed n’ feed,” “pre-emergent,” “grub control,” and “fungus treatment.”

These products can give you, your family, and your neighbors headaches, rashes, nausea and breathing difficulties as well as a variety of chronic health problems.

BE WARY

Don’t believe any contractor who suggests that chemicals are the only answer to pest problems. Be wary of special deals, free offers, and high-pressure sales tactics.

Avoid any contractor who suggests using pesticides on a fixed schedule or ​”​four-step​”​ programs to “prevent” pests or as a general treatment regardless of the extent or location of the pest problem.

Many contractors market their services as “Integrated Pest Management” (IPM) to appeal to your good intentions or ​to ​take advantage of your trust and ignorance.

NOFA, the Massachusetts Organic Farming Association (www.nofamass.org), is the only organization that has organic land care standards and a training and accreditation program for organic land care professionals (organiclandcare.net).

BE A PROBLEM SOLVER

Trustworthy professionals take the time to learn about your family, your house and yard. What is the pattern of sun and shade? What is its history of problems? What are your family’s patterns of use? Do you have children or pets? Is anyone in the family especially ​​vulnerable (very young​, elderly or have allergies, asthma or cancer)?

If you have a pest problem, the experts first identify the pest. Then they can suggest how to remedy conditions to prevent the weeds or bugs.

For example, in the yard, you might need to fix poor drainage or ​compacted ​soil. Inside you may need to fix a drippy faucet, caulk a crack, or clear clutter to deprive pests of food, water, entry and hiding places. A plan for your lawn or garden needs to start with a soil test for soil fertility and lead or other contaminants.

BEWARE HIDDEN INGREDIENTS

What you don’t know can hurt you. If they suggest using a chemical or synthetic product, ask for the product label and manufacturer’s safety data sheet (MSDS).

Watch out for “inert” ingredients. These so-called “inerts” are​ trade secrets (by law). Manufacturers do not disclose them to the public or even to the US EPA yet they may be more toxic than the active ingredients on the label.

“Inert” does not mean biologically inactive. Inert ingredients transport or carry the active ingredient, amplify its toxicity, increase its active life, and/or increase its ability to stick to or penetrate your skin.

BE SMART

NO PESTICIDE IS SAFE even when it is used according to label directions. A “pesticide” is any product used to kill insects, weeds, rodents or fungus.

The US EPA registration does NOT mean “approved.” And, Federal Law prohibits safety claims that directly or even indirectly imply that a pesticide is approved or endorsed by any federal agency. The law prohibits claims such as “non-toxic to humans and pets,” “safe when used as directed” or even “all-natural ingredients.”

Contractors who dismiss your concerns or downplays the risks of any product, even “natural pesticides,” should not be trusted with the health and well-being of your family.

Even “natural” products ​can be irritating to eyes, nose, lungs, and skin so caution is always appropriate. (Remember poison ivy is natural. www.poison-ivy.org)

RESOURCES FOR PEOPLE AND PLANT LOVERS

​Books: ​
The Chemical-Free Lawn by Warren Schultz
Common Sense Pest Control, by Olkowski, Daar, and Olkowski.

Grassroots Environmental Education (www.grassrootsinfo.org)
NOFA, Massachusetts Organic Farming Association (www.nofamass.org)
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (www.pesticide.org)
Beyond Pesticides (www.beyondpesticides.org)
Pesticide Action Network (www.panna.org)

Send your questions and comments to Ellie Goldberg, ellie.goldberg@healthy-kids.info

PEST CONTROL – The OLD way
1. Relies on poisons (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides).
2. Ignores the source of pest problems. (Allows conditions to get worse.)
3. Kills off beneficial plants and insects.
4. Pollutes water, soil, food, and air and contaminates buildings and landscapes.
5. Harms people, pets and wildlife.

THE INTELLIGENT WAY
1. Relies on a plan. (Don’t spray ’em, outsmart ’em!)
2. Prevents and corrects the source of pest problems. (Improves conditions.)
3. Protects soil fertility and biodiversity.
4. Protects the quality of water, soil, food, and air and enhances the quality of buildings and landscapes.
5. Protects the health and safety of our families and community.