Spraying not the answer

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To the Editor,
As I 've been walking around my neighborhood, I've noticed that some homeowners have had their lawns sprayed with Sevin (chemical name, carbaryl).

The lawn spraying companies use it primarily to control the chinch bug, though it is secondarily targeted at the June beetle grubs. On a cost-benefit analysis, danger to human health and the environment versus the much-ballyhooed "perfect lawn," this seems to me to be a no brainer.

Carbaryl is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme present in the nervous systems of all animals, from a jellyfish to an Albert Einstein, that is essential for proper nervous system functioning. This means that all animals to varying degrees are affected by a compound such as carbaryl. It is non-specific and therefore detrimental to the ecosystem, let alone human health. The longer term effects of carbaryl exposure are very concerning. In a landmark 2001 study done by a group of French and American scientists, it was determined that carbaryl caused damage to the DNA of human liver cells.

Then, a group of U.S. scientists in 2010 concluded from studying 56,285 pesticide applicators, that people who applied carbaryl on a routine basis were 1.7 times more likely to contract skin melanoma than those who didn’t. Two highly analytical (2010, 2012) reviews of the literature by Canadian and US scientists, repectively, concluded that maternal exposure to insecticides (e.g. carbaryl) during pregnancy significantly increased the chances of the offspring developing childhood leukemia, as was also the case if the children were exposed post partum.  

In the second of these reviews, the authors concluded that “there is a growing body of literature that suggests that pesticides may induce chronic health complications in children, including neurodevelopmental problems, birth defects, asthma, and cancer.”

The EPA also deems carbaryl to be toxic to a wide array of animals. No wonder that several countries have banned carbaryl: United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Iran and Angola.  

The costs of using carbaryl cannot be seen to be greater than the benefits of ridding a lawn of chinch bugs. Most lawns, kept in good condition by natural methods, recover from chinch bug damage. I use a mild detergent solution to treat the chinch bug brown areas on my lawn. Then, I overseed.

Roger Gordon


Organizations: EPA

Geographic location: U.S., United Kingdom, Denmark Australia Germany Sweden Iran Angola

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