The other day my very young daughter eagerly gobbled a handful of dirt while we were getting the garden beds ready to plant. I didn’t want to think too hard about what would have happened if I had treated the soil with something other than just compost. While wiping the dirt mustache off of her face, I was reminded about how much scary poison we all keep around without even realizing it. There are plenty of sprays and concoctions available to deal with the creepy crawlers. Remember the scads of stink bugs that invaded everyone’s lives couple of years ago? And the creepy bed bug crisis?
A chemical called pyrethrin or pyrethroid is commonly used in residences and on farms to control all sorts of insects –according to the EPA, it is an ingredient in 3,500 registered products. Turns out bed bugs and other critters that are supposed to keel over in their tracks when exposed to the chemical are becoming resistant. In addition, a strong body of research finds links between pyrethroids and major health concerns including cancer and impacts on the immune and reproductive systems, with children and infants having particular susceptibility to negative impacts. Researchers have also found that pyrethroids are linked to decreased reproduction of honeybees. When the chemical is found in stream sediment, it can have toxic impacts on bottom dwelling fish.
EPA is currently reviewing this class of pesticides, as it does for all registered pesticides every fifteen years. It’s not at all clear what the result will be. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program is getting ready to release a report on pesticides in the Bay later this year, setting the stage for pesticide reduction goal setting planned for 2013. The “toxics strategy” for the Chesapeake Bay has relied heavily on voluntary measures. But based on the information provided by the Chesapeake Bay Program, it appears that the needle on reducing toxics from entering the Bay has not moved much since 2006 (and in fact, appears to have gone the opposite direction).