(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Liz Rog of Decorah):
Dear Decorah, Winneshiek County and Iowa,
Today was one of those gorgeous autumn days. Maple and Ash trees turning yellow, orange, red. Cool breeze. Happy people walking the streets and paths alone, with friends, with babies. Heaven right here where we live.
I was basking in it too. Then I entered a store, lingered for 30 minutes or so, walked back out to the street, and was hit with the toxic stench of lawn herbicides. Someone in the vicinity was spraying their lawn, and all of downtown was breathing it.
I know how deadly these chemicals are, short-term as well as long-term, for humans and non-humans alike, so I covered my nose and mouth with my jacket as a make-shift filter. This visual seemed to invite others on the sidewalk to comment to me about the nasty air. A mother was hastening to get her infant home before breathing any more of it. Many people understand that this is poison.
And, many do not know. I am sure that the homeowners, businesses (including a Decorah dental office), city and county officials who choose lawn spraying in the places that they control are kind and compassionate people who care about their neighborhoods and care about the earth. They simply do not yet understand the harm it causes.
Studies show that even low levels of exposure to these chemicals are linked to increased rates of miscarriage and to suppression of the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems; that exposure to home and garden pesticides can increase a child's likelihood of developing asthma; and that they are linked with hyperactivity, developmental delays, behavioral disorders, and motor dysfunction. (for references and more info, visit www.beyondpesticides.org and Pesticide Action Network: www.panna.org.
Let's keep talking about this. Let's be curious with family and neighbors, assuming that each is doing their best with the knowledge they have, and let's keep listening and learning with compassion—for each other, for all creatures, for the water, the air, and the land.
Thanks again to all those who already have made the choice—a brave one, in some neighborhoods—to forego the monoculture lawn in support of a healthy neighborhood. Your example is powerful.