Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas trees loaded with pesticides

We don't traditionally "do" Christmas trees at the house of Man Fertility and me. Mostly because I can't stomach the idea of killing a tree only to watch it decompose to needles in the dining room. I have this dorky organic rosemary bush that I sometimes adorn.

I had no idea, however, that Xmas trees can be LOADED with pesticides--blech. And the nasty nasty kind, because it's a non-food product. Now, if I ever get a tree, it will have to be organic. Not just for our personal indoor air quality, but to help preserve waterways and such.

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Christmas Trees and Pesticides

Most families don’t realize that they might be bringing more than holiday cheer into their homes this Christmas season. Families celebrating this holiday season with the time-honored tradition of a Christmas tree can choose to go green and avoid the toxic chemicals that are typically used to grow it.

Of the pesticides that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered for use on Christmas trees, most are linked to one or more adverse effects, including cancer, hormonal disruption, neurotoxicity, organ damage, reproductive/birth defects, asthma, environmental effects and more. Their use results in exposure to workers, wildlife, and waterways. Beyond Pesticides has compiled a list of 25 pesticides commonly used or recommended for use by state agricultural extension services, including: 2,4-D, bifenthrin, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, endosulfan, esfenvalerate, glyphosate, simazine and more.

read more here

7 comments:

Dr. S. Banerji said...

Pesticides enter human systems through the digestive, skin, or lung routes. None of these would apply for a Christmas tree sprayed with a pesticide. Any plant matter that enters a home without pest control is liable to carry a variety of allergens and pathogens. Your fears are misplaced.

Green Fertility Marie said...

Hello, Dr. Banerji,

Thank you for writing and I noted from your address that you work in biotech, I appreciate that you did not try to hide that fact. People touch Christmas trees all the time, esp. babies and pets, there is also offgassing and the water system to worry about--a consequence of our capitalist monoculture. Lastly, many people mulch their trees, which would normally be a "green" option, but they are only adding more pesticide to their lawns and water systems.

If you ever watch America's Funniest Home videos, you'll see that Christmas trees are a favorite toy for cats.

Rick Dungey said...

"Capitalist monoculture..." ..???? I'm not even sure what you mean by that, but the amount of misinformation you are spreading about farm-grown Christmas trees is astounding. I suggest you and your readers actually look at scientific research on the subject matter. Here's a good source http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/programs/xmas/environment/pesticides.html

I find it intriguing that you inform your readers that buying a tree from an "organic" tree farm is a better choice than a tree grown on any other tree farm. I’ve been looking into this issue since consumers ask us about it sometimes and based on the legitimate scientific research out there, no evidence exists to suggest that your assertion is correct. Do you know of any scientific research showing that organic trees are better somehow than non-organic ones?

I recently read a fascinating book as part of my research called The Truth About Organic Foods by Alex Avery. One of the most enlightening things I learned was that the common belief that organic farms don’t use pesticides is utterly and completely untrue. Copper Sulfate, Nicotine Sulfate, Bt, pyrethrum, Spinosad...the list of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides approved for use by the National Organic Standards Board reads like a toxicology report. Yet, curiously, I never see any mention of these pesticides in mainstream articles blithely telling readers that organic agricultural products are better for the environment. I think you owe it to your readers to tell them that organic farms do indeed use pesticides, they just come from different sources. But they are just as poisonous as man-made chemicals, and in some cases, much more toxic. And in many cases, the application rates of organic approved pesticides is much higher because they are not as effective at eliminating pests. So the environmental burden can actually be higher.

To be clear, buying a Christmas tree from a local farm or even an organic farm are perfectly fine options. It’s not better or worse...just different.

Either option is far superior to buying a PVC and metal product made in China. You worry about babies and pets being near a Christmas tree? No evidence/study exists at all that pesticide residue on farm-grown Chrismaas trees is a health threat. YOU JUST MADE THAT UP! However, the Childrens Health Environmental Coalition warns about lead dust coming off of fake trees made of PVC http://www.checnet.org/HealtheHouse/education/articles-detail.asp?Main_ID=185

Dr. S. Banerji said...

Surface deposits of pesticides evaporate and degrade rapidly. A child or a cat is at risk if a Christmas tree is sprayed just before it is brought in to a home. An interval of a fortnight between the last spray and human contact is adequate to provide for safety. Mulching on the other hand, does not provide for any such interval. Microbes and fungi love organic waste, and can spread after any length of time through spores. Mulch threatens Children and cats. Please leave such organic trees away from homes. I am a pesticide safety specialist. I am familiar with the videos to which you refer, and regret that you trivialize vital aspects of human safety.

Alisa said...

It really sounds amazing that Christmas tree loaded with pesticides.

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Anonymous said...

Thank-you for sharing! There is BIG money in the production of pesticides and it is quite frightening how the N.American government is all too willing to accept unhealthy and environmentally damaging chemicals (on behalf of their often unknowing people) in the name of the current economy. The economy has come to be treated as if it were a real entity before which we must all bow down and sacrifice things of value like the air, forests, oceans, and entire ecosystems. The reality is that as biological creatures, we have absolute requirements from the biosphere. Deprived of air for a few minutes, water for a few days, or food for a few weeks, we perish. Tainted with toxic chemicals, those same life-supporting elements cause us to sicken, even die. These are immutable realities difined by our biological makeup.