Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pesticide contamination of our children and society

Environmental activists and writers like Rachel Carson have been maligned and denigrated by far right conservatives and corporate interests for years. Carson's groundbreaking book Silent Spring made it into the Honorable mention category of the panel of conservatives who recently published a list of the 10 most harmful books in recent history.

But as the problems of childhood asthma, autoimmune disease and chemical sensitivities have become commonplace, with what's now becoming an overwhelming body of evidence pointing to environmental factors, the implications for our children today and the health of our society at large will soon be undeniable and inescapable. Currently outright poisonings are becoming more and more common.

Pesticides like Dursban, once commonplace, have been proven to be so dangerous that they've been banned by the EPA.

Dursban, originating from a class of chemicals known as organophosphates, was employed during World War II in chemical weapons as a neurotoxin, and up until recently was the weapon of choice for preparing the ground beneath, and the forms surrounding every concrete slab of every home and business in the United States specifically for the prevention of termite infestation.

Unfortunately there's little that can be done about the tens of millions of building and home foundations which have been impregnated with this chemical, a chemical whose application was often quite careless and haphazard with regard to quantity and method.

In the construction industry in South Florida, home builders would often request employees of exterminator companies to pump excessive amounts of the Dursban solution on to preparation sites before concrete slabs were poured. Apparently in hopes of preventing possible termite infestations which they could be held liable for if such infestation occurred within a certain period of time after the homes were completed.

In addition, exterminators sometimes used faulty equipment, or equipment specifically modified to spray much larger amounts of this pesticide then was generally considered safe in order to satisfy the homebuilder's requests for extra coverage.


In one case a widely used exterminating company in South Florida was directly responsible for the excessive over-applications of Dursban to a large number of construction sites. In this case one of the truck mounted spray unit had an application wand which had been damaged inadvertently by being dragged behind a vehicle grinding away a large portion of the spray nozzle. This created conditions under which the unit was spraying 50-100 times the standard amount of the chemical solution usually applied to a site.

Though a number of employees initially requested that this equipment be replaced or repaired, the company in question never bothered to do so. Eventually the primary employee who operated this truck stopped requesting a replacement since the damaged applicator allowed him to complete his job in about a quarter of the time usually required. This negligence led to gallons of Dursban solution being pumped into the earth and sand in and around the area where concrete slabs for homes and businesses were constructed.

While using this equipment there was no way to stop the pesticide flow from the nozzle, so if the employee was interrupted during the application procedure the only way to stop the Dursban from being sprayed into the general area and environment, was to embedded the nozzle end of the wand into the earth while it was continuously pumped from the tank. This faulty equipment was literally in use for years leading to uncounted thousands of gallons of this neurotoxin being excessively applied and pumped into the ground underneath homes throughout the area.

The long-term ramifications of the use of this faulty equipment, as well as incidence of intentional over-application can only be guessed at. But in this case alone, literally tens of thousands of residents and their children were unwittingly exposed to needlessly high levels of a dangerous chemical neurotoxin without their knowledge.

No doubt such abuses and misapplications of this extremely hazardous chemical were commonplace throughout the industry and the across the United States.


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