Gardeners Beware: The Dangers of Pesticides

by Dr. Michael Court

There is nothing that pleases green thumbs more than the arrival of spring. Life is sprouting on the budding trees, flowers, and garden plants. It is time to start thinking about planting your garden. You can almost begin to taste those first vegetables of the season. GARDENERS BEWARE: those pesticides that seem so harmless and useful may be negatively affecting the soil, your health, and the health of your loved ones.

The massive use of chemical fertilizers, which totals well over millions of tons per year, has come to be an accepted method of forcing plants to grow. Herbicides are used on weeds; fungicides are used in fields, storage, and transportation to control rot. Pesticides are used on plants. Pesticides are mainly used by gardeners to kill insects that threaten trees and garden plants. The pesticides are usually applied through spraying or shaking. Insects have grown increasingly resistant to pesticides, which cause farmers to use larger amounts of toxic chemicals, which in turn kill the insect’s natural predators.

Many of these poisons work systematically and become both part of the soil and of plant tissues. Farmers consider this advantageous because they need not reapply them after a heavy rain. Some of the more familiar ones legally found in food are methyl bromide and lead arsenate. These pesticides are allowable in the food supply with concentrations of up to only 0.3 parts per million. So what is the problem? Although the trees, plants, and produce are saved, the pesticide residue is still on and in the food we eat. This residue eventually reaches the colon and builds up toxicity in the body. Pesticides kill insects by neurologically affecting them. DANGER: Pesticides poison humans as well and affect our brains and nervous systems.

How can we reduce the amount of toxic pesticides we ingest?
The National Pesticide Information Center states repeatedly to reduce your exposure. Make your lawn organic. Create your own pesticide-free space in your backyard. Educate yourself. Teach your neighbors. Take a stand against the use of toxic pesticides on the lawns of your communities and the places where children play every day.

Washing produce does help, but it does not clear the pesticide residue away completely.  Peeling is also helpful, but the pesticide can also be found throughout heavily sprayed produce.  Growing or purchasing organic food is always best; however, sometimes this is not a financially feasible option for everyone.

ALWAYS buy organic foods on the Dirty Dozen list. The USDA tested the residues of the foods on the Dirty Dozen list and found them to be positive for 46–67 different chemicals. The Clean Fifteen bore little or no traces of pesticides and are safe to consume in non-organic form.

Organic agriculture truly lives and breathes. Nurtured with natural fertilizers, a living soil provides plants with strength to resist disease and insects, as well as to have superior taste and nutritional value. Organic foods may initially cost more to produce because converting chemically overworked soils is not easy. Organic prices have come down in recent years. A USDA report concluded that organic farming is competitive economically with chemical farming. Organic works better, it is more efficient, and it ultimately saves the company money.  If we think that organically grown is more expensive than chemically grown food, we need to look at the overall picture. The price of the chemicals is reflected not only in the price of our food, but in the cost of our health care, the future of our soil, and the sustainability of our agricultural system.

Find the cause and restore your health with Nutrition Response Testing.  Nutrition Response Testing is a safe, non-invasive way to analyze what is out of balance in the body and design a nutritional program to feed the body exactly what it needs to fix itself.  Each person has a personalized program tailored for his or her body’s needs.

The best choice for restoring your health is to work with a health care practitioner to help you transition to a locally grown whole food diet and help your body remove any nasty pesticides using a personalized, clinically designed nutritional program. We see patients in our office that have been affected by pesticides, whether from flea spray use inside the home or insecticides being used in their own gardens. This toxic internal buildup can be from products such as Round-Up, Chlordane, DDT, and others. Some studies suggest they may not only cause long-term damage to cognitive abilities and neurological function, but may also kill the organisms and nutrients in our soil. Don’t let your health be negatively impacted by pesticide toxicity!

Dirty Dozen  (There are more than 12)

• Apples
• Blueberries
• Celery
• Cherries
• Tomatoes
• Cucumbers
• Grapes
• Hot Peppers/Sweet Bell Peppers
• Nectarines (imported)
• Peaches
• Potatoes
• Spinach
• Strawberries
• Summer Squash/Zucchini

Clean Fifteen

• Asparagus
• Avocado
• Cabbage
• Cantaloupe
• Corn
• Eggplant
• Grapefruit
• Kiwi
• Mangos
• Mushrooms
• Onions
• Papayas
• Pineapples
• Sweet peas (frozen)
• Sweet potatoes

Dr. Court and Chippewa Valley Wellness serve Eau Claire, Altoona, Chippewa Falls, and the greater Chippewa Valley area. The clinic offers a wide variety of alternative health services including Nutrition Response Testing, Massage Therapy, Acupuncture and Upper-Cervical Chiropractic care. For more information see, attend one of our free monthly health workshops, or call 715-723-2713.

The Winter of Our Discontent

by James E. Boulter, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director, Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire

We have just emerged from one of the coldest winter some of us have ever experienced.1 There was talk about whether those arctic blasts, felt as far south as Florida, finally signified the end of the raging battle of public opinion over the validity of climate change. Some felt that the cold weather they experienced couldn’t possibly be consistent with global warming as they understood it, while others exploited it to reinforce their conclusion that human-induced climate change was a fraudulent hoax.2

Meanwhile, many accepted explanations of the shifting polar vortex as another example in a growing list of extreme weather events, escalating their sense of a changing climate.

So which is it?

It is important to recognize that weather is necessarily personal—something we experience, and thus inherently local. For example, while we froze in the Upper Midwest, high temperatures set records along the west coast of North America all the way up to the northern slope of Alaska.3

Even as severe droughts threaten California,4 record-breaking rains flooded England5 and record-breaking high temperatures scorched Australia. In contrast, climate is continental or global in scale—we measure it by means of satellites or extensive networks of monitoring stations; those data indicate that global average temperature for January was the fourth highest on record, more than 2°F higher than the twentieth century average over land.6 In order to quantify the increase in thermal energy of the planet resulting from increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, it is necessary include not only measurements made on land, but also those at sea, and below the ocean surface.7 And finally, it is crucial to focus on long-term changes because climate varies over decades, never seasons.

So the unsatisfying answer is, “neither—not from a single winter in any one part of the world.” But we can ask other questions that result in a resounding, “Yes; human activities (primarily extraction and burning of fossil fuels) have substantially warmed the lower atmosphere and the upper ocean.”8 This has been felt most acutely and most notably in the northern polar region, where we have observed the dramatic loss of sea ice and land-based glaciers, as visualized in James Balog’s compelling 2012 documentary, Chasing Ice.9

But is there any link between climate change and this extraordinarily cold winter?

It turns out that there’s a plausible and worrying connection. The polar vortex, a well-established annual phenomenon in both hemispheres, forms around the arctic after the sun goes down at the winter solstice. As the air cools and sinks, it begins to rotate like a spinning top. The strength of the vortex is determined by the difference in temperature between the pole and the “mid-latitudes.” Decrease that difference by disproportionately warming the poles, and the top begins to slow its rotation. For the toy as well as the vortex, that leads to reduced stability as it wobbles and eventually falls over. This time, it fell right on North America, a rare although not unheard-of weather pattern.10

But warming poles mean much more to us than a particularly harsh winter. Much clearer connections can be drawn to a range of effects that amplify the warming directly caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. For instance, as the bright ice and snow of the far north become less extensive, the planet’s darkened surface absorbs still more light energy, leading to still-faster warming and melting.11 And as vast regions of permafrost thaw and “methane clathrates” beneath the Arctic Ocean begin to break down, both release additional greenhouse gases.12

Some of you may worry about this or other trends in the global climate record; however, I’m sorry to say that chances are, you’re probably less worried than the scientists who study climate change!13 Most of us who share concerns for the climate future of the planet suffer from a sense of futility leading to apathy or may feel overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. I’ve given many talks on the science and anticipated impacts of climate change over the past fifteen years or so, giving what I felt to be impassioned presentations about dispassionate numbers and graphs. As a result, I believe that I’ve raised awareness, and maybe also concerns and fears, but probably not many hopes.

What are concerned citizens to believe and how are we to act in the face of an issue of such magnitude?

Recently I’ve discovered a vital, potent source of hope – a potential remedy to that apathy and paralysis. Like Dr. James Hansen,14 the preeminent climate scientist who first testified before Congress about the dangers of human-caused global warming twenty-five years ago; like former Republican representative from South Carolina, Bob Inglis;15 like George Schultz, former Secretary of State to President Reagan;16 and—yes—like former Vice President and climate activist Al Gore,17 I have become an advocate for a market-based, “fee-and-dividend” solution to cut fossil fuel-related carbon emissions, and forestall the most serious climate outcomes.

What is fee-and-dividend and why should it work?

More than 97 percent of scientists who publish in related fields agree that climate change is happening and primarily caused by human activity;18 similarly, the consensus view of greater than 90 percent of economists across the ideological spectrum is that the most effective way to reduce fossil fuel use and the associated carbon dioxide emissions is by imposing a tax on carbon.19 This may also be described as a “fee and dividend” policy. The advantages to this approach are too numerous to list in this article, but include three key characteristics:20

? Implementation is rapid, simple and efficient, working by means of market forces rather than complex regulatory structures and needing to be imposed at fewer than 1000 points throughout the economy—wherever fossil fuels are extracted or imported.
? The fee would be “revenue neutral,” preventing any substantial increase in the size of government while protecting he most vulnerable people from resulting increases to goods and services by refunding the entire amount collected as an annual dividend.
? It is highly effective, imposing an initial cost of $15 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions and increasing by $10 per ton per year. This provides a steadily increasing price that discourages fossil fuel use while giving people and industries the time and resources to change. By extension, it incentivizes development and implementation of renewable and efficient energy technologies.

These characteristics are specifically intended to appeal to a wide range of legislators, both Democrat and Republican, so that such legislation has a better chance of passage, while retaining its effectiveness.

Is there any good news?

Yes—science can refine our understanding of causes and attributions and improve predictions of future climate scenarios. Better still, it may also provide exciting new technologies for improved energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, which may provide many people hope.21 However, these potential solutions are often slow or entirely unable to enter the market where they can be effective. Why is this? Consider that the full cost fossil fuels is never paid by the industry, at the pump, or on our energy bill; rather, it is assessed in increased healthcare costs and poor health outcomes, experienced in environmental damage, global insecurity and conflict, and transferred to our children and grandchildren.22 If that weren’t enough, greener, cleaner energy alternatives simply cannot compete with established, mature technologies and energy sources whose dominance is reinforced by existing cultural expectations, subsidies, business models, power structures, and infrastructural investments.23 In other words, the playing field is uneven now but this strategy is a way to right it. And by doing this, individuals, families, governments, businesses and industries will be empowered to make changes in how they use and invest in energy that will help to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate.

If this proposed solution also gives you hope, or if you’re interested to learn how a non-partisan organization, comprised almost exclusively of volunteers from across the continent and beyond, seeks to create the political will for a stable climate, visit our website at

Detox Your Home: 4 Simple Solutions

You arrive home with several bags of groceries from your local organic food store, pleased you’re making healthy choices for what you (and your family) put into your body. But even though you’re making good choices when it comes to food, what you may not realize is that there are other toxins in your home that are just as damaging to your health as poor eating habits. To truly live clean and green in your home, you need to be aware of what you are breathing in and absorbing through your skin, in addition to the food you’re consuming.

What’s in Your Water?

Before we discuss airborne and topical toxins in the home, however, let’s talk about what comes out of your tap. You’re likely aware by now that water straight from the tap isn’t as healthy for you as it could be. In fact, tap water is often found to have traces of lead as a result of running through ancient pipes, with radiation levels above the maximum limit set by the EPA, as Wired reveals. Tap water can also contain DNA-damaging trihalomethanes, traces of ammonia and bleach, and small amounts of various pharmaceuticals. The best solution for this problem is to get a quality water filter. Of course, you can also buy bottled water, but it’s best to drink water from a glass rather than from a plastic bottle, especially if the plastic contains BPA.

Clear the Air

According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is typically worse than outdoor air pollution, sometimes much worse. This is because homes are usually tightly sealed, so any of those toxic things you use — from hairspray and deodorant, to chemical cleaning products and pesticides — get trapped in your home and have a hard time escaping.

There are several things you can do to reduce the indoor pollution in your home. Instead of harsh cleaners, use more natural options such as baking soda, vinegar and lemon. You can also find natural cleaning solutions, as well as organic hairspray, deodorant and pesticides.

Another good step is to buy some indoor plants. According to Natural News, NASA has discovered the best indoor plants for cleaning indoor air include the rubber plant, bamboo palm and areca palm.

Silent Killers

The silent killers known as radon and carbon monoxide can get inside your home as well. While radon has a distinct smell, carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless, making it especially dangerous. Leaking furnaces and gas stoves generate carbon monoxide, so make sure to have your furnace inspected regularly, and that your stove is properly ventilated during use. Also, recommends having at least one carbon monoxide detector per floor, preferably connected to a security system that also has a fire sensor.

Topical Toxins

In addition to reducing air pollution in your home, you should be aware that anything you put on your skin can absorb into your bloodstream. For this reason, it’s important to stay away from products with harmful ingredients. For instance, many shampoos and moisturizers contain cancer-causing parabens, and anti-bacterial soaps and toothpastes often contain potentially harmful triclosan, as Time Magazine points out. Substitute products that contain harmful ingredients like those mentioned above for all-natural products, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier home life.

Save the Bees – Eau Claire Chapter

by Drew Kaiser

Colony Collapse Disorder. You may have noticed a recent flood of media coverage about colony collapse disorder (CCD), a little-understood blight on the honeybee that has wreaked havoc on this crucial pollinator’s populations. Sometimes reading these big-picture news pieces can seem a little overwhelming.  Honeybees have been an integral part of our agricultural system for thousands of years, their pollination activities are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat, and we don’t know why they’re dying.  As a result many large, rurally based beekeepers are getting out of the business. In response, many cities around the country have passed ordinances allowing the keeping of bees; in our area most notably Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Madison. On August 13, a group of Eau Clairians gathering under the Facebook moniker @Save the Bees—Eau Claire Chapter (STBECC) started to gather signatures in support of Eau Claire forming our own ordinance. In less than twenty-four hours over 200 supporters signed the petition, and that number continues to grow. Their aim is to convince city staff and council members to consider an ordinance similar to the one passed in Madison, which the American Bee Journal has called The Best Bee Ordinance in the country.

Tomato Leaf Blights: The Bane of the Tomato Grower

by Brian Hudelson, Senior Outreach Specialist and Director University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic

If you have ever grown tomatoes, you may have had your plants dry up and lose their leaves beginning in mid-summer. You are left with the tomato equivalent of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, with a few tomato “ornaments” clinging to bare branches and stems. If this has happened to you, you have personal experience with one of the fungal tomato leaf blights.

Common tomato leaf blights include Septoria leaf spot and early blight. These diseases first appear on lower leaves. Septoria leaf spot begins as necrotic (i.e., dead) spots that are roughly ¼ inch in diameter and have a light-colored center, a dark edge, and sometimes a yellow halo. Early blight forms larger necrotic spots (up to approximately 1 inch in diameter), with concentric rings, giving the spots a target-like look. Spots of both Septoria leaf spot and early blight subsequently merge, causing leaves to collapse and plants to eventually defoliate.

Tomato leaf blights typically occur every summer but are more common during rainy seasons or in gardens where plants are watered with overhead sprinklers. Moisture provided by rain and overhead watering wets leaves and provides the perfect environment for infections to occur.

The best strategies for managing tomato leaf blights are preventative ones. Once symptoms are present, management options are limited. To help reduce the impact of tomato leaf blights:

• Remove old tomato debris
Leaf blight fungi survive in dead tomato tissue (and potato tissue as well). Removing and destroying last year’s plants will reduce the amount of tomato blight fungi in your garden. Debris can be buried, burned, or composted. When composting, the pile temperature must reach 140°F or more, and the pile contents must be turned routinely so that the pile heats evenly. The combination of heat and decay of plant tissue helps eliminate disease-causing fungi.

• Decontaminate items used in your garden
Bits of tomato debris harboring leaf blight fungi can cling to tomato cages, stakes or other items that you use when gardening. A thirty second or longer treatment of these items with 10 percent bleach or 70 percent alcohol can help kill these fungi. Spray disinfectants containing approximately 70 percent alcohol also can be used. Spray items until they drip and then allow them to air dry.

• Use leaf blight resistant tomatoes
While resistant varieties are available and an option for management, such varieties are not common, and oftentimes have bland-tasting fruit.

Septoria leaf spot is a common leaf disease that can defoliate tomato plants.

• Space tomatoes plants appropriately
Plants should be spaced so that at their mature size, leaves on adjacent plants do not overlap. Providing sufficient space allows good air flow between plants that can reduce drying time when leaves get wet.

• Mulch
Use approximately 1 inch of a high-quality mulch over this year’s and last year’s tomato-growing areas. Mulch provides a physical barrier that prevents spores of leaf blight fungi from blowing or splashing from small bits of tomato debris in the soil onto this year’s tomato plants. When mulching, avoid using old tomato or potato debris, wood chip mulches of unknown composition, or grass clippings from herbicide-treated lawns, as these materials can lead to disease issues or problems with chemical toxicities.

• Thin plants
Like proper plant spacing (see above), removing lower leaves (as well as branches here and there) as tomato plants grow can help promote better air flow and more rapid leaf drying, thus leading to a less favorable environment for infections to occur.

• Do not overhead water
Use a soaker or drip hose instead. These hoses apply water directly to the soil and help keep leaves dry.

• Use preventative fungicide sprays
Use this option only when you have had a leaf blight problem for many years and other control strategies have failed. In home gardens, fungicides labeled for use on tomatoes and containing copper are the products of choice. Applications must be started before symptoms are observed, and continued approximately every seven to fourteen days. Uniform coverage of upper and lower leaf surfaces and stems is critical for fungicides to be effective.

• Buy your tomatoes
As much as you like growing tomatoes, sometimes when leaf blights are chronic and severe, your best option may be to simply forgo the frustration of battling disease, and find local fresh market growers whom you can support by buying their produce.

Having problems with tomato leaf blights (or any other plant diseases)?  Consider submitting a sample to the UW-Madison/Extension Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic (PDDC) for a diagnosis. Details on sample submission are available through your county UW-Extension office, at, by calling 608-262-2863 or by emailing