Friday, May 11, 2012

Cape Cod Times Publishes Op-Ed on Glyphosate

Yesterday the Cape Cod Times published an op-ed I wrote for its column My View. My piece contains important information. In case you do not get the CCT, here's the text:

"May I make a confession? A decade ago I tried to kill my mom’s Virginia creeper by spraying it repeatedly with Roundup. This mindless act took place before I became an environmental activist, before NStar decided to use glyphosate under the power lines, before I learned how toxic the world’s most popular weed-killer is.

Chemical companies prey on non-scientific types like me. Surely their products would not be for sale were they dangerous? Surely the EPA has investigated their toxicity? Why else would Roundup-ready crops have been approved for use across America?

The truth is, tens of thousands of unregulated chemicals are currently manufactured and marketed here. Like stealth agents, they have infiltrated our lives. The chemical industry works hard to make people believe their products are safe, but many chemicals are proving harmful to health.

The industry gives these substances unpronounceable names like polycholorinated- biphenyl or polybrominated-diphenyl-ether. Recently the media created acronyms which are easier to retain. More consumers now recognize PCB, BPA and PBDE, and try to avoid them – not such an easy task.

Here’s what you may encounter in a single day: In the home or school: toxic cleansers. At the office: toxic dust that contributes to infertility. In the kitchen: organopesticide residue on fruit and veggies. At the checkout counter: BPA-coated cash register receipts. In the bedroom: flame-retardant mattresses. In the bathroom: skin products made with phthalates, an estrogen-mimic that is believed to increase breast cancer risk and may contribute to obesity. Since thousands of toxic chemicals exist, let’s focus in on one: glyphosate, the main ingredient in my bottle of Roundup.

When I sprayed Mom’s Virginia creeper, I had no idea I was using a poison. Sure, I saw the “precautionary statements” of “hazards to humans & domestic animals” on the label and the “Notice: Buyer assumes all responsibility for safety and use not in accordance with directions.” What I did not know then is that glyphosate has been linked to birth defects and is considered an endocrine disruptor.

Endocrine disruptor? Think of a hormonal train making stops within the fetus as it develops. If all goes well, the hormonal messages get to their destinations. Cells develop normally. But toxic chemicals can derail the messengers. The most critical period, the period you really do not want derailment, is pregnancy. ADHD may be one result.

Exposure to pesticides has also been linked to autism. “Certain pesticides are believed to alter thyroid function, interfere with brain development and cause deficits in cognitive functions in the developing fetus,” reveals the Endocrine Disruption page at

And, emerging science indicates endocrine disruptors can create adverse biological effects at lower doses than previously suspected.

Two years ago I force-fed myself a science diet in order to understand what would result from NStar’s arbitrary switch to herbicidal spraying. I learned glyphosate does not break down easily. It will filter through our sandy soil and contaminate Cape Cod’s sole-source aquifer.

A Swedish study reported a higher incidence of Parkinson disease amongst farmers who use glyphosate. American farmers, who plant Roundup-ready crops, find themselves obliged to use more herbicides than ever before as weeds have become resistant to the chemical. Super weeds, ADHD, breast cancer, birth defects, Parkinson’s, infertility …

So, where’s the good news? The Safe Chemicals Act, a bill that seeks to regulate toxic chemicals, is now before Congress and, last week, Senator John Kerry signed on as a co-sponsor.

What of my mom’s Virginia creeper? I didn’t even manage to kill the damn thing. And, Roundup remains prominently displayed in your local hardware store. Don’t buy it.

Got weeds? Try vinegar."