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Spray Today, Pay Tomorrow: Connecticut Pesticide Case Points to Tragic Cycle

Professionals who mix Roundup in a tank are legally required to wear all the proper protective gear, yet . . .

Our good friend Nancy Alderman was up and at it again this morning before most good Marines, this time disseminating the Hartford Courant story about a woman who is suing the state of Connecticut — claiming that pesticides caused her cancer.

The sad story, tearing a local school apart, is illustrative of the deep social malaise that perpetually involves a whole bunch of good people unwittingly doing a whole bunch of bad things every single hour of every single day in this country. In this case one teacher allegedly ordered her subordinate, Cynthia Lefebvre, to spray the students’ greenhouse with pesticides that are illegal to apply in Connecticut on school grounds. Daily, states the victim. For more than a decade, according to the report. This is a greenhouse where seedlings are raised for student fundraisers.

That means the kids touch the stuff. All the time.

The teacher’s underlying belief, apparently, is that even though the pesticides were illegal, they were 1) SAFE; and 2) NECESSARY. It’s what virtually EVERYONE in suburbia seems to believe.

Now, a decade and a few tumors and chemotherapy treatments later, Cynthia Lefebvre must prove both negligence on the part of the school (seems like a slam dunk) and, even more daunting, she must attempt to prove the pesticides caused her cancer.

Good luck with that, says the attorney for the defendant. That’s because he knows what everyone in the legal system also understands: It’s virtually impossible to make a direct link between one person’s illness and an exposure to pesticides. You have a tumor? Could have been caused by anything according to the courts.

And so synthetic chemical pesticides remain legal virtually everywhere in the United States except Connecticut and New York schoolgrounds, as well as a growing number of communities who are kicking them off public property. “Safe when used as directed” remains the pesticide industry mantra. Even most doctors and scientists won’t step into the fray, claiming they lack enough empirical data to make an informed judgement.

“To a real scientist, the conclusion is simple — the scientific method is, with present knowledge, inadequate to deal with the toxicity of pesticides to real people,” states scientist John Sankey in an excellent essay titled “Why Science Can’t Prove a Pesticide is Safe.”

With all the myriad compounds present in pesticides (and other consumer goods), plus all the foods and medicines we consume, human beings have essentially become lab rats in a massive modern experiment gone awry. Scientists and doctors can point to data showing disease wildly on the rise, but still tell us they lack the know-how to do much about it.

Meanwhile, the synthetic chemical pesticide industry continues to market products like Roundup and weed ‘n feed to the masses. The models are wearing shorts and sandals, in many cases not even the rubber gloves that Cynthia Lefebvre said disintegrated in the face of the pesticides she was forced to spray in that Connecticut school greenhouse.

When a professional mixes Roundup in a tank, he or she must where the moon suit complete with all the protective gear. When a professional applies weed ‘n feed to our lawns, he or she must post Caution, Warning or Danger labels due to the toxic risk.

Yet homeowners essentially do whatever they want, unprotected, with the same exact products. Common sense ought to prevail, yet the Cynthia Lefebvres of the world continue to get caught in our insane system where the the lawyer’s only answer in the face of illness is “just try to prove my client’s product did this to you.”

In other words . . . spray today, pay with your health tomorrow.

. . . Roundup is marketed to consumers as being practically benign. (Monsanto advertisement)

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 : 1023
  • http://www.facebook.com/SuzySnowflake Suzanne Foley-Ferguson

    Great post..I like on FB, but can’t seem to repost on FB.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SuzySnowflake Suzanne Foley-Ferguson

    Great post..I like on FB, but can’t seem to repost on FB.

  • Carrie

    Another excellent posting. I actually went to the link you embedded to read the following article: “Why Science Can’t Prove a Pesticide is Safe.” I feverishly nodded my head to his point about the inherent lack of replicability in pesticide company studies. The study designs, as well as the actual ingredients combo, tend to be mired in secrecy. As the author says, transparency in method is key to the reliability of a study. Without it, anyone could basically concoct an outcome (and that’s exactly what’s legally allowed to happen in many cases). The only point that I disagree with in the embedded link is the statement that government approval is a government statement of safety. That may be the case in Canada, but it’s not in the US. If pressed on this question, any higher ranking EPA official will try to dodge the question, but if push comes to shove, any well-trained EPA official will say that a pesticide can’t technically be called “safe”. At best, a pesticide can be classified as such: “‘GENERALLY considered as safe if used as directed”. While that qualification may seem like merely a semantics play, it is much more than that. “generally” confers a universe of legal doubt about the actual safety of a pesticide product. Generally means “not always” and “not sure”. Do you want to be the one to find out that you’re the exception or that the EPA neglected to require studies on inhalation toxicity or carcinogeneity because the industry convinced them they weren’t necessary? (that happens all the time, by the way). Like I said in another post, the EPA has knowingly registered at least 70 known carcinogens and thousands of probable or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors. Sounds super safe to me!!!

  • Carrie

    Another excellent posting. I actually went to the link you embedded to read the following article: “Why Science Can’t Prove a Pesticide is Safe.” I feverishly nodded my head to his point about the inherent lack of replicability in pesticide company studies. The study designs, as well as the actual ingredients combo, tend to be mired in secrecy. As the author says, transparency in method is key to the reliability of a study. Without it, anyone could basically concoct an outcome (and that’s exactly what’s legally allowed to happen in many cases). The only point that I disagree with in the embedded link is the statement that government approval is a government statement of safety. That may be the case in Canada, but it’s not in the US. If pressed on this question, any higher ranking EPA official will try to dodge the question, but if push comes to shove, any well-trained EPA official will say that a pesticide can’t technically be called “safe”. At best, a pesticide can be classified as such: “‘GENERALLY considered as safe if used as directed”. While that qualification may seem like merely a semantics play, it is much more than that. “generally” confers a universe of legal doubt about the actual safety of a pesticide product. Generally means “not always” and “not sure”. Do you want to be the one to find out that you’re the exception or that the EPA neglected to require studies on inhalation toxicity or carcinogeneity because the industry convinced them they weren’t necessary? (that happens all the time, by the way). Like I said in another post, the EPA has knowingly registered at least 70 known carcinogens and thousands of probable or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors. Sounds super safe to me!!!

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