06 September 2004

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Your Sept. 1 news article about the mistakes made by pesticide applicators correctly reports that pesticides are dangerous chemicals that are frequently applied incorrectly, with tragic results. But there is a more important fact about home and garden pesticides.

Even when pesticides are applied correctly, they may not be safe to use. Many articles in medical journals have associated lawn weed killers and insecticides with dramatic increases in the incidence of a number of cancers and other diseases. One study found that the incidence of leukemia in children was 650 percent greater in homes where indoor and garden pesticides were used.

Anyone who lives in the suburbs has noticed the pesticide flags sprouting on lawns in the spring and fall. These are removed after one day. But the pesticides themselves last for weeks or months, and they are then tracked into the house.

Clearly, misapplication of pesticides is only the tip of the iceberg.

David Ehrenfeld, M.D.
New Brunswick, N.J., Sept. 2, 2004
The writer is a professor of biology at Rutgers University.

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