Friday, July 20, 2007

Pesticide vs. seizures

In a story that underscores just how dangerous chemical pesticides can be, two families in Indiana say their lives were forever altered after chemicals were used in their homes. In 1994, New Albany toddler Christie Ebling was an active, bright-eyed girl according to her parents.

But she has spent the years since severely hindered by thousands of seizures, resulting in broken bones, and requiring constant care.

Christie and her brother AJ began to experience the seizures months after powerful pesticides were sprayed in their home. Doctors diagnosed them with chemical exposure. Their mother, Cindy Ebling, miscarried her third child.

Not far away in Indianapolis, the Hannan family was experiencing flu-like symptoms after their home was sprayed for ants. Doctors told Mary Jane Hannan not to have any more children as a result of her level of exposure.

In the case of the Hannans, it turned out a worker admitted in court to having sprayed 15 times the recommended amount of an insecticide containing the organophosphate Diazinon. In 1995, a year after the trouble had begun for both families, the EPA fined pesticide maker Dow $832,000 for failing to report adverse health effects for related chemicals. The Eblings are immersed in their own legal battle now.

Such cases of pesticide poisoning have been reported across the world for decades, and they underscore why it is prudent to exercise extreme caution when it comes to industrial chemicals. The European Union is leading the way with a regulatory framework called the precautionary principle, in which more burden of proof is placed on companies to demonstrate that new chemicals can be safely used.

In North America, it’s clear that
integrated pest management, biological control and organic farming and gardening will go a long way to keeping our families, as well as the environment, safer.


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