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Former Chemical Applicator Comes Clean

“What to hell was I thinking?”

That was how a former kingpin of the chemical lawn care industry opened his interview with us this past week. Though we cannot divulge the name of the individual until later in 2010, he did consent to being filmed for the movie A Chemical Reaction. During December, his comments will be edited into the film in time for our flurry of spring screenings.

“When I look back on it now, I just shake my head,” he said. “I mean, our company actually had a nurse come in twice a month to check our blood to make sure the products we were using weren’t killing us. That seems insane, doesn’t it? When I was 22 I wore it as a badge. I was tough. I was using these poisons every day, but I was young and didn’t think anything of it.”

I asked him if workers were taken off the road due to excess levels of pesticides in their blood.

“All the time,” he said.

I asked him if his company ever received calls from customers who said their dogs and cats were sick.

“All the time,” he said. “It was a frequent occurrence. But our response was to treat the customers like they were kooks.”

This individual, like myself, now feels as if his usage of chemicals might have negatively impacted his own family member.

“My nephew has always had respiratory problems,” he said. “He’s got asthma; he’s allergic to a lot of things and has been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia. We’ve always wondered what the cause was.

“I’ve had a guilty conscience about this for a long time and I finally went to my sister and said, ‘You know, we’ve been treating your lawn since before he was born.’ She said, ‘Oh, that’s not a concern because your products are safer. Even my own sister bought on to it . . . bought into the deception that we were perpetuating. I finally got to the point where I couldn’t be a part of it anymore and I had to walk away.

“Even if there’s a chance that something I did harmed my nephew, that’s a bummer. A lingering doubt. A lingering concern. A life changer.”

We’ll bring more of this conversation to light in the coming weeks.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1024
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  • Joseph J. Rosati

    I know… Trust me…I own a pest control company in St.Petersburg, Fl I have given up the nasty pesticides and often wonder if I am the only one besides you. I am concerned that the unfettered use of pesticides and the deceitful and ignorant ways technicians apply them is ever going to be believed or changed. I do have a conscience.
    I also know that when a customer has a complaint about an American cockroach they tell me to use the nuclear weapons. I do not know how to stay in business in these times. Help me to understand why people are this way and how to overcome the monumental foolishness.

    • Paul Tukey

      Joseph,
      You’re definitely not the only one, although I’ve heard from many people that Florida is one of the most difficult states to be an organic convert. I’ve been there myself several times and things seem to be controlled by a few large chemical applicators with a large percentage of migrant workers (nothing against the workers intended here) who don’t know any better than to use the chemicals.

      We’ll turn this tide though. The post is greatly appreciated.

  • http://www.safelawns.org John Sawyer

    How can anyone look at a neon green lawn and think that is anything near natural, or safe, or environmentally friendly. I mean really?

  • Harry L. Francis

    If we do not stop the use of pesticides that weaken and/or kill off the bees, , all animals including humans on this pLanet will starve to death. Plant life is the source of all foods. Bees are absolutely necessary to pollinate the plants. NO Bees, No Planrs. No Food for animals and humans.

    So we stop it or all die.

    Sue some one …no…what good is the $$$$ if everyone dies.

    It really is a serious problem, being ignored by the EPA/FDA, etc.

    WAKE UP AMERICA, and SAVE the WORLD…..PLEASE.

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