Heavy seasonal rains are fouling Florida’s rivers, lakes, lagoons, beaches and coastlines. Large quantities of agricultural fertilizers leach into Lake Okeechobee, then are flushed into the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon and the Treasure Coast, causing the huge algae blooms we all know too well.

Additionally, and just as dangerous, is the leakage of poisonous substances from agricultural, and the home use, misuse and overuse of pesticides and herbicides which constitute a direct, cumulative threat to human health.

On a recent boat trip on Lake Okeechobee, we observed miles of islands of brown, dead water grasses, killed off by the indiscriminate, unnecessary spraying of herbicides from the air and by land and water. In other states these aquatic plants are being controlled by conventional mechanical harvesting at comparable cost, then used as fertilizer.

We often are told by for-profit industrial interests that, unlike pesticides, herbicides kill only plants, and therefore cannot be a threat to human health. But what are the facts?

 The World Health Organization still is struggling alongside local communities and governments of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to deal with the mortal and lasting disfiguring effects of Agent Orange, which was sprayed and dropped by bombs during the Vietnam War (1965-1975). This was done, intentionally, to defoliate tens of thousands of acres of forest, and inadvertently to poison farmlands. We had been told that Agent Orange, being a herbicide and not a pesticide, is not harmful to humans, and in any event it degrades rapidly in the environment.

We learned otherwise. Today, Dow’s 2.4D herbicide containing Agent Orange is being used on croplands in the United States.




 The World Health Organization has long warned of the risks of misuse, or excessive use, of Roundup and other herbicides, especially those that contain Glyphosate, which is linked to lymphoma cancer. The common aquatic herbicide Sonar, containing Fluridone, has not been listed by the World Health Organization as carcinogenic, but the effect on amphibians has not been determined.

To date, the World Health Organization has not (yet) determined how much risk is presented by the other commonly used aquatic herbicide Reward.

We do have this cautionary information: The active ingredient of Reward is a chemical called Diquat dibromide. According to recent studies at Cornell University,  “Concentrated solutions of Diquat bromide may cause severe irritation of the mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach, followed by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe drying out of bodily tissues, gastrointestinal discomfort, chest pain, kidney failure and toxic liver damage. Large doses can result in convulsions and tremors, and may be fatal to humans.”

 The Cornell studies suggest the herbicide “may cause infertility in males.” The effects vary widely among different species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. For ethical reasons, we cannot directly test suspected toxic chemicals on humans.