in the news: spraying pesticides over urban areas?

according to the San Francisco Chronicle last month, California's agricultural department has been receiving more attention than they expected for a plan to spray urban areas in northern California with a pesticide to prevent a threatening moth infestation ("State plans Bay Area pesticide spraying," Feb. 15, 2008). i don't mean to be alarmist, because the preventative measures appear to be less frightening than the steps the state might take if an infestation takes hold, and i doubt the moth would be any better for organic farming than conventional. the pesticide currently in use primarily contains a moth pheromone, along with other ingredients, but if the moths become widespread, they may be harder to manage without stronger pesticides, or significant crop (and profit) loss.

what concerns me more broadly, however, is the ubiquitousness of toxic chemicals in our everyday environments -- while each compound may not be a huge risk by itself, or in small quantities, the reality is that we are surrounded by many different chemicals (plasticizers, pesticides, preservatives, solvents in household products, etc.), few of which are actively managed or strongly regulated in either their use or their disposal. in the article on the moth pesticide, the Chronicle describes how patients in Santa Cruz county reported multiple symptoms after their neighborhood was sprayed while people were outside and directly exposed to the chemicals. given the high rates of asthma among children today, it's disturbing that officials aren't more concerned about continuing to increase the levels of industrial and other pollutants. additionally, when it comes to the toxic load of chemicals in our environment, educating the public is necessary but not sufficient, as toxicity, health, and environmental exposure are complex issues requiring in-depth study and understanding of the multiple factors involved.

i respect that a widespread pest infestation could present an enormous threat to both small and large farming operations and local food production, but perhaps we need more public involvement and discussion over how best to respond, and in general, greater oversight when it comes to adding potentially dangerous compounds to the physical environment.

1 comment:

Dagny said...

It's amazing how many other countries smarten up about health issues like pesticides, GMO's and BPA while in the US we continue to protect the companies manufacturing products that harm human health.

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