Anthony Piel has an opinion piece in TC Palm about the contaminants, especially herbicides and pesticides, found in our water. He mentions Diquat, heavily used in Florida because it is cheaper than mechanical methods. Some other states opt for safety and use mechanical pickers.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Heavy rains pollute Florida’s waters, threaten human health | Guest column
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?
We learned otherwise. Today, Dow’s 2.4D herbicide containing Agent Orange is being used on croplands in the United States.
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 conclusion should be clear: We need to test all Florida water flows, not just for excessive fertilizers, but also for pesticides and herbicides, whose cumulative effects might be insufficiently known.
Safety first. Let’s not allow inertia to threaten the health and lives of future generations. We need to follow the example of other states such as Connecticut, where it has been shown that removal of undesirable weeds from lakes and waterways is feasible using conventional mechanical harvesters on rafts at costs equal to the use of herbicides.
This practice is much safer for humans and wildlife, while providing jobs for local workers. The harvested weeds can then be composted and used as fertilizer.
Anthony Piel, a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization, is retired and living in Stuart. Email: [email protected]