Diazinon and Dursban risky chemicals
October 2, 2008 · Updated 2:41 PM
SNOQUALMIE VALLEY Many Valley residents have
recently received a postcard depicting a little girl and her Golden Retriever
lounging on the lawn. Although it's an adorable scene, the card asks
"What's wrong with this picture?"
The postcard's flip-side explains that the safe-looking lawn could
be soaked with pesticides that could be toxic to the girl and her pet, not
to mention fish, birds and wildlife.
This and two other cards are part of an awareness campaign launched
a few weeks ago in the cities of North Bend, Snoqualmie, Carnation
and Duvall to caution residents about the harmful effects of lawn and
garden pesticides. King County is co-sponsoring the program.
"What we do in our yards impacts the environment and what you put
on your lawn can wash off into streams and lakes." said Annette Frahm,
community planner and manager for the county's hazardous waste
Snoqualmie Valley Recycling Coordinator Cecelia Boulais added
that local residents need to realize that the Valley's water is precious and
needs to be protected.
"Water contamination is more important up here because
[pesticides] can get into wells and our rivers
hold salmon spawning grounds," she said.
The two pesticides under attack are Diazinon and Dursban, which
are popular with many gardeners. Both belong to a category of
chemicals called organophosphates that kill insects by overwhelming their
These chemicals are found in hundreds of lawn and garden
products used to kill crane flies, fleas, ants and other insects. Brands that carry
the products include Ortho, Real-Kill, No-Pest and Spectracide. Dursban is
also known as chlorpyrifos and can even be found in some brands of flea
collars and fly strips.
"The thing about Dursban is that it's in flea collars," Boulais said,
adding that she had a kitten that acted like it was drunk after wearing a
Dursban flea collar for a few minutes. "If
it's strong enough to affect the nervous system of an animal, then it's a
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed
restrictions on the use of Dursban because of its risks to children. The
EPA made an agreement with chemical manufacturers to end many
residential and crop uses of Dursban.
Now, Diazinon is up for debate in a recent EPA draft study that
suggests the pesticide is harmful to fish, birds, people, wildlife and beneficial
insects. The study could result in the restriction of this ingredient as well.
The EPA is considering several studies, including King County
studies, that in the last few years show Diazinon has been found in high
levels in local streams. A document from the county's hazardous waste
education program stated that "there is clearly a relationship between
homeowner use of Diazinon and stream pollution."
Besides showing up in our streams, the studies implicated Diazinon
in dozens of local ducks' deaths just two years ago and have proven that
the chemical harms fish. The pesticide gets into the fish, including
salmon, and changes certain behaviors crucial to survival.
"Some research says [Diazinon] interferes with salmons' ability
to smell, which they need to survive, to spawn and avoid predators,"
Frahm said, explaining that her department is concerned with the chemicals
because if fish and wildlife are affected by them, humans can be, too.
The EPA found Diazinon is potentially harmful to human health.
The agency's risk assessment studies reported that Diazinon has been a
leading cause of insecticide poisonings reported in the United States and
the risk for most home uses of the chemical exceeds the EPA's level of
concern. The EPA is also concerned that Diazinon can be exposed to
infants and children through drinking water.
Frahm said that water quality experts used to believe it was the
big corporations that were polluting water, but now studies show
that homeowners are also to blame because of their unrestricted use of pesticides.
"You can say `What I do doesn't make a difference,' but there are
1.6 million people in King County and when everybody does one small
thing, when you add [their actions] up it will either make things worse or
make them better," she said.
So, what can Valley residents do to avoid harming the environment
with Diazinon and Dursban?
The postcard program suggests growing a healthy lawn and garden
by building good soil, using plants that thrive in the Northwest climate
and using non-toxic methods for controlling insects. Slug traps,
handpicking bugs and birds are all non-toxic alternatives.
"It seems like the American way is that you see a problem and you
immediately go out and buy something to spray on it," Frahm said.
"What we're trying to do is to get people to think first. Think of your garden as
a whole. Bugs go after plants that are not healthy and weeds like poor
soil, so you can prevent a lot of problems when you start with healthy plants
Frahm's education program also offers a free booklet called
"Grow Smart, Grow Safe" that outlines
methods for producing a healthy garden and rates the toxicity of 350 pesticide
products. She said it's important for county residents to educate themselves
about these chemicals and alternative gardening methods because everyone
is responsible for the environment.
The EPA is taking comments through July 18 to determine
whether to ban or restrict Diazinon. For information on the EPA's draft
environmental risk assessment, visit their Web
site at www.epa.gov/pesticides/op/diazinon, then choose
efedrisk.pdf from the list.
Also, the, "Grow Smart, Grow Safe", booklet can be found at
nurseries, and similar tips are offered on the county's Web site
at www.metrokc.gov/hazwaste/card.html or by calling (888)