A new statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine warns against the harmful effects of pesticides and other common chemicals. Here with tips to help us ensure our home and hearth won't hurt our health is Metro's natural gardening and toxics reduction expert Carl Grimm.
We've heard warnings about toxic chemicals forever, it seems, and it's hard to know what - if anything - can be done about them. What's the significance of this new statement from the medical community?
The fact that two more medical associations have come out with such strong recommendations for reducing our exposures to pesticides and other common toxic chemicals shows us that the evidence - and the need for action - is more serious than ever. (Remember last year it was the American Association of Pediatrics.)
Of particular concern are increased risks of childhood cancers and profound and lasting effects on our kids' health even from chemical exposures that occur before conception to either parent.
With a young family of my own, children's health is top of mind for me. Fortunately there are plenty of ways we can help protect our families and ourselves from both pests and pesticides, indoors and out.
So, in the house, how can we fight pests without bug sprays and rodent baits?
Ants, moths, mice and rats all need food, water and a way into your home to become a problem. To avoid them all, clean up crumbs, floors and surfaces regularly (even if you're in a holiday-meal-induced stupor), seal cracks, fix leaks, pack your food away in tightly sealed containers and avoid clutter. If you do all that and still have a problem, use traps, baits or gels instead of sprays, foggers or pest strips.
What about on the lawn and in the yard? What works best for reducing pesticide use?
One great strategy is out there at your fingertips right now, and it's free: Leaves. Layer fallen leaves anywhere you've got bare soil. A six-inch thick layer stops weeds and slowly breaks down to add rich organic matter to the soil for healthy plants. Healthy plants are less susceptible to pests and need less care to maintain.
For the lawn, steer clear of weed and feed or other pesticides. Instead, mow regularly and let the clippings lie on the lawn so they fertilize for free. Sprinkle grass seed over the lawn in fall or spring and wherever you pull a weed so the turf grows thick, and the weeds have to struggle for a foothold. Consider letting some weeds grow so your lawn looks more interesting, you save some effort and don't expose anyone to chemicals.
Ask Metro for more information and to get free resources on nontoxic products and practices for your home and garden by calling 503-234-3000 or visiting oregonmetro.gov/healthyhome.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists statement on "Toxic Environmental Agents" and related information resources can be found at acog.org/toxicchemicals