Diazinon and Dursban risky chemicals

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

education program.

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

nervous systems.

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

and soil."

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, 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 or by calling (888)


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