When it comes to chemicals that cause practically instant harm or death, it should come as no surprise that there are repercussions for all life and not just that targeted.
We have all agreed as a society that herbicide Agent Orange, which was used to break down foliage in the forests of Vietnam, was extremely harmful. The health repercussions have been so bad for those exposed to it that the U.S. military has veteran programs dedicated solely to helping cover medical and related costs and even offers job training and other compensation for not only those directly impacted but for their offspring, too. In the heat of war, it seems as though common sense was passed over for expedience.
Around the same time that Agent Orange was being used so was the pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane). While DDT was first used by the military in WWII to control malaria, typhus, body lice and the bubonic plague, killing the insects that helped spread disease, it was then applied to agricultural fields, the food we eat. Due to the impacts on wildlife — specifically, birds of prey that were eating rodents exposed to DDT and then produced eggs with shells too thin for viable offspring — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned its use in 1972 in the United States. It was also banned due to potential human health risks. DDT has since been linked to low birth weights, premature births and breast cancer in humans.
The most recent culprit under scrutiny is the widely used herbicide Roundup. Although the U.S. EPA just announced Roundup, or rather the active ingredient glyphosate, is safe for humans, there has been enough negative news about the pesticide’s impact on human health, including lymphoma, that people are finally speaking out against it. Glyphosate has been in use since 1974. In August 2018, a federal jury awarded a San Francisco man $80 million due to his cancer diagnosis and his exposure to glyphosate and in February, a University of Washington study found glyphosate increases the risk of cancer by 41 percent.
Oak Park Superintendent Anthony Knight has been way out ahead of this game, at least when it comes to the school district, in removing Roundup’s use in weed abatement for the last 15 years. He said that it’s a matter of literally picking the weeds instead of chemically killing them. He also said that the district uses only organic fertilizer. He is passionate about keeping students from being exposed to perceivably dangerous synthetic chemicals. As of late, he is now among several individuals locally who are speaking out against further use of Roundup in school districts and on public property.
With the recent release of a 1,500-page environmental report, a United Nations collaboration of 132 nations including the U.S., assessing biodiversity around the globe and the impacts of human endeavors, prioritizing profit over nature is clearly having a detrimental ripple effect on all living beings. From overarching climate change to the extinction of various species due to habitat destruction and many more disturbing issues, it’s clear that humans’ haphazard ways are having enduring consequences. But in the end, if we don’t put the well-being of our planet and nature at the top of the priority list, then we will all suffer.
Though residents in Ventura County can’t necessarily do much to change course for the entire world, we can scale back the use of harmful chemicals, including Roundup. We can seek to better understand the natural progress of plant and rodent life and implement new, less dangerous paths to keep the human race safe and fed with healthy gardens to boot. Humanity has evolved to survive thus far, from caveman days of knuckle dragging to living purely through internet connectivity. Surely we can collectively figure out how to balance nature and man and keep health hazards at bay. But for what we can control, let’s focus resources to stop the use of glyphosate.