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Monday, 10 September 2012

Risks to Children from Common Chemicals by Gail Malone

Are you willing to risk the health or even lives of your children just because the manufacturer of a chemical says it's safe? Take RoundUp, it’s sold at supermarkets and hardware stores, so it must be safe, well is it?  Did you know that when you spray that dandelion in the crack on your path, you are exposing yourself, your pets and your children to the chemicals for at least a few months?  Now researchers have found that one of RoundUp’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” - the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides.  Glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States, but I think Australia could give them a run for their money.  Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup, not that glyphosate is a big enough problem. This year Monsanto, manufacturer of RoundUp, agreed with the New York Attorney General's office to discontinue their use of the terms "biodegradable" and "environmentally friendly" in ads promoting glyphosate-based products, including Roundup (1).  Biactive 'new and improved' RoundUp is based on glyphosate, Monsanto does not disclose what the 'improved' surfactant is.  One specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself.  “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens.  A research team suspects that Roundup might cause pregnancy problems by interfering with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages (2). The term “inert ingredient” is often misleading, U.S. Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as inert.  Inert compounds, therefore, aren’t necessarily biologically or toxicologically harmless - they simply don’t kill insects or weeds.  However, some inert ingredients have been found to potentially affect human health.  Many amplify the effects of active ingredients by helping them penetrate clothing, protective equipment and cell membranes, or by increasing their toxicity (3). RoundUp is in the hands of untrained people across the country-side spraying for all they are worth to save us from weeds.  There are many safe methods for dealing with weeds, that are cheap and some are not even labour intensive. Solarisation for instance, we live in a very hot country – use it, steaming or slashing annuals so they don’t seed, you don’t even need to disturb the ground to dig them out.  It has been found that many weeds have become resistant to RoundUp, Fleabane quite common in the area, is just one (4).  So, we are in fact making super weeds, like we have made super cockroaches and super bacteria by ill informed and out of control use of insecticides and antibiotics?  I don’t know what it takes for humans to learn the error of their ways, we always want a quick fix, but to what end?  I, for one would like a say in what is sprayed around my environment, as I live on a waterway, but alas I don’t!  Take the Periwinkle in Wendoree Park for instance, not ten metres from Mangrove Creek, it does not respond well to herbicides as many plants with glaucous (waxy) leaves don’t, yet it has been sprayed and it is my understanding it will be again.  This needs to be done again for an obvious reason, glaucous leaves.  It is also a waste of money to be spraying in strong heat, as it is contra indicated.  It would be far better to water it, cover it with thin clear plastic, plant around the circumference of the infestation to control erosion and to help keep future weed invaders and their seeds out.  Then leave it for as long as possible, over summer would be ideal and wha-la dead Periwinkle, cheap, painless and safe, just plant up, mulch, follow up spot weed, job done without a drop of poison!  Plants grown in solarised soil soon after treatment have often benefited from improved seed germination, better stand establishment, improved plant height.  Such increased growth responses are thought to be due primarily to the increase in soil nutrient availability, as a result of the breakdown of soil organic material.  By spraying, the mycorrhiza, fungi that colonise the plant roots and aid in the uptake of soil mineral nutrients, that supports the riparian system dies.  Do we want to help our environment or make ‘statements’, or do we just want to be seen to be doing something?  If you must use Roundup use full P.P.E. (Personal Protection Equipment).  Don’t wear leather shoes or gloves, wear rubber and don’t spray it, paint or inject it.  DON’T EVER use it near waterways or when there is a breeze, dew, mist or even high humidity, it WILL translocate.  Still, it is far better to be sure than sorry, so why not dispose of the RoundUp you have appropriately, Monsanto will survive. In this area we are concerned about our aquifer, silicosis and other environmental problems, and rightly so.  RoundUp is also big a problem and yet we are very caviler about its use and it is one environmental problem, unlike the above, that we as individuals, can control.  “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world” - John Muir.1. (Caroline Cox / Journal of Pesticide Reform v.108, n.3 Fall98 rev.Oct00)2. Op. cit. 13. Op. cit. 14. First case of glyphosate resistance? Agrow, No. 260, 12 July 1996Gail Malone (Conservation and Land Management Cert. IV, Control Weeds)

republished with kind permission from
 Gail Malone

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