There have been concerns about the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, particularly imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, in bedding plants purchased at garden centers, and their effects on honey bees and other pollinating insects. Much of this interest was generated by a report by Friends of the Earth of analyses conducted on bedding plants being sold in garden centers in spring 2013 and published later that year.
A review article I wrote is at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ipr/i8739_829.html#124754. This was followed by a more extensive study, Gardeners Beware 2014, Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in "Bee-Friendly" Plants sold at Garden Centers Across the U.S. and Canada that can be accessed at http://libcloud.s3.amazonaws.com/93/3a/3/4738/GardenersBewareReport_2014.pdf.
Earlier this year, Lowe's announced that they will phase out sales of neonicotinoid insecticides by 2019 as they identify replacement insecticides. I find it at least coincidental that EPA is due to complete their analysis of neonicotinoid insecticides in 2018. Many garden centers are requiring that growers label bedding plants as to whether neonicotinoids insecticides have been used on them.
AmericanHort, Society of American Florists, Horticultural Research Institute, and American Floral Endowment issued a statement in response to Lowe's position on neonicotinoid insecticides as follows.
April 9, 2015 (Washington, D.C.)
"As professional horticulturists, we grow trees, plants and flowers, and healthy trees, plants and flowers are critically important to healthy bees and healthy bee habitats. Pollinator health is a highly complex issue, and we recognize that there many factors that can affect bee health. Although the improper use of pesticides can harm bees, a growing number of credible independent studies indicate that neonicotinoids, when used as directed, are not the cause of widespread bee health issues.
"Consumers want plants that are healthy, beautiful and pest-free, and neonicotinoids have proven to be among the most effective pest management tools available. Neonicotinoids also are among the safest products we have for both our employees and the environment.
"Lowe's position is surprising, considering the most recent and positive reports on the state of honeybee health (NASS honey report) and recent peer reviewed research. This is an issue for which sound science must take priority. Plant growers are experts on how to produce healthy plants. We embrace the challenge of protecting bee and pollinator health and the opportunity to be part of the solution. We will continue to fund important research on the health of bees, and guide horticulture on safe and responsible pest management. Horticulture will look to the best science to guide our efforts. For additional information on what horticulture needs to know about pollinator health, view our video at http://bit.ly/ProtectingPollinatorsVideo."
The full statement is at http://files.ctctcdn.com/cfdf4ef7001/3f2a086b-d1bc-417e-89c7-e6f0d79e4ea3.pdf.
There are numerous research studies that show links between neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides with honey bee and other pollinator declines. There are also numerous studies that show links of other factors with these declines. Perhaps the joint EPA and USDA report on pollinator decline issued in May 2013 is the most comprehensive. My review article of that report is at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ipr/i8627_829.html#123485.
It is not possible to prove that neonicotinoid insecticides in bedding plants and those used on home gardens and landscapes are not major factors in honey bee and other pollinator declines. It is impossible to prove any negative. However, various studies and reports indicate that these insecticides probably play only a minor role in these declines.
Many experts feel that besides relatively low levels of insecticides in the pollen and nectar of treated plants, there is a dilution effect by non-treated plants that are visited in the landscape. This is tempered by recent research showing a preference in honey bees and bumblebees to neonicotinoid-treated plants (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14414.html#close). Honey bees and bumblebees have previously been shown to have a preference for nicotine, so this preference for neonicotinoids is not a complete surprise.
The European Commission's two-year moratorium on neonicotinoid insecticide use on flowering crops ends at the end of 2015. The resulting analyses and report should be useful in understanding the situation. France stopped the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in 1999 and still has honey bee colony collapse disorder. A recent report states that Australia does not have colony collapse disorder and uses neonicotinoid insecticides, but does not have varroa mite. Varroa mite is a debilitating pest of honey bees that also transmits several viral diseases to honey bees.
University of Illinois Extension continues to recommend the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in controlling insect pests. We will continue to do so as long as their use is supported by research showing they are effective in controlling pests while presenting acceptable risks to human health and the environment, including pollinators.
As pesticide spraying begins, it's important to remember to follow labeled directions regarding clothing, aka Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The label is the source of information on what to wear.
Just about all labels state long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks, and a hat. Labels don't differentiate between 50-degree temperatures and 100-degree temperatures; it's always long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
In other words, shorts and short-sleeved shirts are not recommended for applying pesticides.
Gloves are usually recommended but not always. Check the label.
Avoid 100% polyester clothing, especially shirts. While they may be more comfortable during hot days, according to an Ohio State University study, they allow pesticides to penetrate to the skin. Cotton or 50% polyester material is better for shirts and pants.
One of the most important things to remember is that gloves and shoes should NOT be leather. Pesticides bind with leather, poisoning the operator every time the shoes or boots are put on, especially if the leather becomes damp. You need chemically resistant materials such as Neoprene, Viton, butyl rubber, and Nitrile. Another option is to wear disposable shoe coverings over your boots; they are available from several supply companies.
Make sure to wash clothes daily using hot water and a strong detergent. Don't wait until the end of the week to wash clothes. Line dry the items to avoid contaminating the dryer with any pesticides not washed out. Line drying outdoors also allows UV light to break down some of the chemicals.David Robson
The agricultural container recycling schedule is now available on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website http://www.agr.state.il.us/agrichemical-container-recycling-program/.
This program allows agriculture producers such as farmers and commercial applicators a method of disposing of unwanted containers at no charge without resorting to burying in a landfill or other potentially illegal means.
The 2015 recycling dates will run from July 28, 2015 through August 28, 2015 in 30 Illinois counties. Please refer to the above website for specific locations, dates, and times.
The program is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the Agriculture Container Recycling Council, GROWMARK, Inc., the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, Container Services Network, the Farm Bureau, and the U of I Extension Service.
Only containers made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) #2 plastic are acceptable for recycling. Containers must be triple-rinsed or pressure-rinsed and dry. Metal containers, household pesticide containers, and containers with liquid in them will not be accepted.
Year-round disposal is also available at three permanent collection sites in Green, McLean, and Lawrence counties. Please call to ensure the facility will be open.
For more information, visit the IL Department of Agriculture's website at http://www.agr.state.il.us/agrichemical-container-recycling-program/, or call the Illinois Department of Agriculture at 1-800-641-3934 (voice and TDD).
Residents of seven central Illinois counties can dispose of unwanted agrichemicals for free this year through the Illinois Department of Agriculture's (IDOA) agricultural pesticide "Clean Sweep" program.
A "Clean Sweep" collection has been scheduled in late summer for Calhoun, Cass, Morgan, Greene, Jersey, Pike and Scott counties, the Department announced today. The collection, which rotates among Illinois counties, is open to farmers, retired farmers, nursery owners, private pesticide applicators, structural pest control applicators and landowners who inherited unwanted agricultural pesticides with their property.
"There are two main reasons to take advantage of this program," said Warren Goetsch, Bureau Chief of Environmental Programs.
"The Department is able to provide the service free of charge thanks to a grant obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If individuals were to properly dispose of agrichemicals on their own, the cost would be expensive. Secondly, the state of Illinois, not the program participant, will assume liability for the proper disposal of all materials collected."
Participants must register the products they plan to dispose of by July 15. Registration is required to give the waste disposal contractor time to prepare for the different kinds of materials that will need to be handled. Forms can be obtained either by calling the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Hotline at 1-800-641-3934 or visiting one of the program sponsors listed below. Completed forms should be mailed or faxed to the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The mailing address is: Clean Sweep Program, Illinois Department of Agriculture, State Fairgrounds, P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL, 62794-9281. The fax number is (217) 524-4882. Participants then will be sent a reservation card indicating the date, time and location of their collection.
The "Clean Sweep" program began in 1990 in Illinois. Since the inception of the program, the Department has held 45 collection events through the state and collected 517,688 pounds of material from 1,867 participants.
Source: Press release from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, http://www.agr.state.il.us/idoa-schedules-clean-sweep-collection-in-central-il--2015/
Recently the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) designated glyphosate as a "possible carcinogen". In sharp contrast, other reviewing bodies, including the U.S. EPA, have determined that it is not a carcinogen. Still, much damage has been done by misleading or alarming headlines and questions are being asked.
There has been no shortage of news stories, emails, blog posts, and discussions on social media about the topic. After reading and hearing much about this, my initial concerns have been put to rest.
The IARC based their determination on previous studies, which have likely been reviewed by the EPA. There was no new research done by the IARC. Glyphosate is still registered for use by the EPA and Illinois Department of Agriculture.
The IARC made their determination after reviewing glyphosate and several other chemicals for only one week. Reviews of glyphosate in the United States and other countries have taken up to 5 years.
The IARC made their determination based on potential hazard rather than actual risk of harm. The rates were much higher than what product labels allow. What happened to "the dose makes the poison"? Anything at a high enough dose can cause harm. Estrogen at a high enough dose can cause cancer.
The "Risk Bites" videos are great at explaining toxicology in an easy-to-understand yet entertaining manner. The creators use animation to explain what it means when something could "probably cause cancer". Here they have tackled the "glyphosate is a carcinogen" topic and put it into perspective. Remember, the dose makes the poison. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CbBkB81ySxQ
Glyphosate is a well-studied herbicide. Many studies have made the news. Many studies have been proven to be flawed. Just as we've seen with medical issues, corrective reports are often deemed less newsworthy than the original eye-catching headline. At that point, the damage has been done.
Glyphosate is loved by many and hated by many. Many of the haters include those who are against GMO crops. Glyphosate is widely used for weed control in both corn and soybean crops that have been genetically modified to tolerate the use of this herbicide. Today, glyphosate is sold and distributed by many companies. However, it was originally developed by Monsanto. Therefore, glyphosate is a popular target by those who march against Monsanto and other forms of "big" or conventional agriculture.
Sometimes good, solid science is twisted and misrepresented by these anti-GMO groups. As Kevin Folta of University of Florida Horticultural Sciences describes in his blog on the Genetic Literacy Project website, imagery is combined with conclusions that clearly do not match the research findings. These memes are then posted to social media. It's a wildfire that can't be put out. Perhaps you saw this headline posted on your Facebook page, "Glyphosate causes endocrine disruption in human placental cells at levels allowed in U.S. drinking water." http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/03/23/anti-gmo-activist-groups-twist-science-claiming-glyphosate-infects-drinking-water-threatens-babies/
In short, given the lack of any new evidence that would steer us otherwise, we and other weed control professionals across the country will still continue to recommend glyphosate as it is a widely used and effective weed killer – not only in genetically modified corn and soybeans, but also in orchards, forests, wetlands, landscapes, etc. Overall, it is inexpensive and works very well in many situations. We are committed to safety, yet we are also committed to helping both professionals and land/home owners win their battles against invasive, habitat-destroying, yield-robbing weeds. If credible science proves otherwise, we will appropriately revise our recommendations. Of course in most situations, there are other herbicides and weed control methods you can choose from. Glyphosate is not the only option.
Users of products which contain glyphosate or any pesticide for that matter should carefully read and follow all label directions. The label will provide guidance on what clothing or personal protective equipment should be worn so that exposure and therefore the overall hazard associated with using the chemical is reduced. For applicators, reducing exposure by covering up the skin reduces the hazard.
Glyphosate and Cancer: What does the data say? By Wyoming weed scientist Andrew Kniss. This is long but very thorough in looking at the data. He offers a much longer list of suggested links than this one. And he takes the issue seriously as he works with glyphosate and other pesticides regularly. http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2015/03/glyphosate-and-cancer-what-does-the-data-say/
"March Madness from the United Nations", Henry Miller's article in Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2015/03/20/march-madness-from-the-united-nations/
Is Glyphosate Dangerous? – A list of associated links by the Genetic Literacy Project: http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/tag/glyphosate/
Glyphosate Technical Fact Sheet by the National Pesticide Information Center: http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphotech.html
Basic Information about Glyphosate in Drinking Water: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/glyphosate.cfm
The Agricultural Health Study: http://aghealth.nih.gov/
This is "[a] prospective study of cancer and other health outcomes in a cohort of licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses from Iowa and North Carolina. The AHS began in 1993 with the goal of answering important questions about how agricultural, lifestyle and genetic factors affect the health of farming populations. The study is a collaborative effort involving investigators from National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health."
A Method to Measure the Environmental Impact of Pesticides ¬– Joseph Kovach and his colleagues have found a standardized way to compare differences in pesticides in terms of their relative dangers to humans and the environment. An Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) is then assigned to a pesticide. These values can be used to compare pesticides and pest management programs to determine which is likely to have lower environmental impact. A table of herbicides is provided. These values can change over time, but at press time, glyphosate has an EIQ of 15.33. Most of the herbicides listed have higher values, but the lower the number, the lower potential for impact. Learn more at: http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/publications/eiq/default.asp
Few things are scarier than a pesticide spill. Thoughts run quickly through the mind of everything that could go wrong, from health problems to environmental contamination.
If a major spill occurs, as defined by the reportable quantity (RQ), found on the Safety Data Sheet, contact IEMA, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (1-800-782-7860). Not all products have the same RQ. That's why it's important to always have the SDS for every product you use.
When a spill occurs, think of the 3 C's: Control, Contain, Cleanup.
The first step is to control the spill, or stop it. If the container is leaking, place it in a larger container. For example, if a gallon jug is leaking, place the container in a five-gallon bucket. Even setting the container or small sprayer in a child's swimming pool will stop leaks from spreading.
If a larger container is leaking, try to plug up the leak with clumping kitty litter patted on the area, or use a bentonite/polymer compound, spray insulation foams, Hi 'N Dri™ bonding agents, or other products available from pesticide application stores, such as Gempler's, QC Supply, EnviroMet, Mantek, and more.
Of course, none of the materials will help if you don't have them on hand. Most are inexpensive, so it pays to keep them within your facility or vehicles.
The next C is contain. You need to make sure the spill or leak doesn't spread. Cotton batting, kitty litter, absorbent pads, absorbent tube socks, or containment snakes are also supplies to have on hand if the spill is on a flat, smooth surface such as the floor of a shed or garage. Even materials such as the water-absorbing granules used by florists or in diapers will absorb liquids.
If a leak occurs in the field or yard, you need a shovel to create dikes and/or dams so the pesticide doesn't spread beyond that area.
The main goal with containment is to prevent the pesticide from moving, particularly into sewers, drains, streams, rivers, or other water sources.
The last C is cleanup, moving the absorbent material to heavy-duty containers for disposal. Heavy-duty garbage bags or steel drums lined with heavy duty plastic are recommended, though labeled or SDS (Safety Data Sheet) instructions will always take precedent.
Use a heavy-duty shovel or broom and a dustpan to sweep up dried materials. Afterwards, wash down the area if indoors with strong detergent, and use absorbent material to soak up the wash water, disposing of it in plastic containers.
In fields, about the only thing to do is to remove the topsoil. This may involve specialized companies, and you definitely need to contact the IEMA.
Of course, throughout all these operations you need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including chemical-resistant clothing, boots, goggles and gloves. Disposable PPE is recommended.
Having a spill kit in your facility is not only practical but also easy to assemble. Kits should contain:
• Chemical-resistant gloves
• Chemical-resistant coverall
• Chemical-resistant boots
• Chemical splash goggles
• Respirator if working in a confined space or specified by the pesticide label
• Heavy-duty plastic or hazardous material storage/garbage bags
• Absorbent pads for water- or solvent-based chemicals
• Absorbent tube sock (containment snake)
• Bentonite/polymer mix paste for plugging leaking containers
• Floor absorbent granules
• Shovel, broom, and dust pan
• Heavy-duty detergent, sponges, brushes
• Warning signs to keep staff out while the spill is being cleaned-up