April 18, 2010

Poisonous Gas: Just Another Day in the Neighborhood

A load of poisonous gas was dropped into our neighborhood last week. Nobody complained, everyone went about their business as if nothing was happening, a cat went missing, and the earth’s ozone layer took another hit. Just another day in paradise.

The gas-drop arrived in a perfectly legal, professional-looking package: a white truck belonging to a pest extermination company accompanied by two men in uniform. The mission: rid recently purchased home of termites. The outcome: termites and their eggs dead, ground soil contaminated and no longer suitable for organic gardening, poison in the air acting like a greenhouse gas. Trees, bushes, birds, butterflies, and helpful insects of all kinds were undefendable, plus any person within the vicinity of the home was exposed. But exposed to what?

The gas is sulfuryl fluoride, otherwise known as Vikane. Introduced in 1957 as a neurotoxin guaranteed to leave anything dead, it has been touted as the only viable solution to saving one’s home from termite destruction. Around the mid-1950’s there were other chemicals introduced to Americans, too. They were designed to make life more convenient, and chemical companies richer. This all coincided with a major blight of our day – the rise in cancer rates, and of particular concern because of its correlation, breast cancer.

We are in a state of toxic overload, not only in our bodies, but our water, air, soil - the earth itself. It is a poisonous stew. As I watched the bizarre world of pest control from my kitchen window last week, I wondered why Vikane gas hasn’t been outlawed. We don’t hear much about the ailments it can cause ranging from mild respiratory problems to death. But its routine use continues for two reasons: our ignorance and corporate greed.

For many, and I suspect this is the case with people who agree to have a poisonous gas infiltrate their homes, ease and expense are factors. If you skim the surface and trust the sellers of the chemicals, you will learn that these poisons won’t hurt you as long as you use them properly. We are advised not to breathe Vikane gas or go near it. But how does one do this when it is in the air and penetrates surfaces we might touch? And what are the long-term cumulative effects, especially when combined with other toxins in our environment?

One man cannot fill his home with poison gases and ignore the impact on himself, his neighbors, and the planet on which he lives without eventually feeling the repercussions of his actions. The day after the pesticide extermination company returned to remove the tarpaulins from my neighbor’s home, they began moving in. Since no one has told them, they are unclear whether the gas can become trapped in insulation, plastics, rubber, carpets, and other such surfaces and whether these residual amounts of gas can be hazardous to them. As for the earth’s ozone layer, it’s depletion is probably far from their thoughts.

As always, there are alternatives that are easier on you and the environment. For termite problems, orange oil is an ecologically safe treatment. It might need to be used periodically which can cause people concern about the price. But a much greater price to pay is the depletion of this earth that sustains us and the damage we’ve done to our health as a result of modern chemical conveniences.

Environmental groups in California are working to get Vikane banned, but they are up against the power elite. Often, laws have to be in place to save us from ourselves. Until we are legally restrained from harming ourselves and our environment, we can educate ourselves as to alternatives to termite control and other forms of pest control. There are eco-friendly, effective alternatives for your yard and garden, for you and your pets, the inside of your home and its structure. All it takes is educating yourself. Call around, ask around, do a little research. The time is now to take personal action and do our part to bring ourselves and our planet back into balance.

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