Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

GREAT editorial about pesticides in The New York Times!

There's a splendid editorial in today's New York Times by Deborah Blum, titled, "Who Killed Fido? We All Did." It ends:

We kill lots of animals — the ones we find annoying, destructive or unsafe. We regularly employ toxic substances against rats, insects, prairie dogs, coyotes and invasive fish, and yet we are shocked when those same lethal substances affect us.

We’ve been learning and forgetting this lesson almost since we began using industrial pesticides: in 1959, American consumers spun into panic upon learning that their Thanksgiving cranberries were contaminated with the weed killer aminotriazole; in 1962, Rachel Carson published her exposé on the wildlife deaths caused by the pesticide DDT; in 1984, consumers nationwide threw away their pancake mixes after learning they contained trace levels of a grain fumigant; in 1989, consumers were horrified after the pesticide Alar was discovered on apples in grocery stores.

While cases of acute toxicity are rare, accumulated research studies show that chronic pesticide exposure, not surprisingly, is less than healthy. In 2003, for instance, a federal study reported that a high level of exposure to agricultural pesticides raised the risks of some birth defects by 65 percent and increased the likelihood of a variety of diseases ranging from cancer to Parkinson’s. Suburban lawn chemicals have been associated with increased cancer risks in both people and domestic pets.

So I don’t think we have to look too far for the poisoners in this round of pet deaths. We lean toward the saboteur and the murderous poisoner because they’ve always lived among us, and because they make excellent scapegoats. But we’re all poisoners in our way — purchasers of roach sprays, consumers of perfect produce delivered by grace of dangerous chemicals. Every so often, we are forced to realize that, like the arsenic poisoners of old, our lifestyle also demands innocent victims.

Read the whole wonderful essay.