Synthesis/Regeneration 11   (Fall 1996)

Competition & Nuclear Power: A Dangerous Combination

reviewed by Bruce Lofquist, Eco-Praxis Inc, Ontario

Marion Moses' Designer Poisons: How to Protect Your Health and Home from Toxic Substances, Pesticide Education Center, San Francisco, 1995. 416 p. Paper, $19.95 from Pesticide Education Centre, P.O. Box 420870, San Francisco, CA 94142-0870, Phone: 415-391-8511.

It's like playing Russian roulette. You pull the trigger and the gun doesn't go off, so it must be safe to pull the trigger again. ——Feynman, in Designer Poisons

Marion Moses is a physician specializing in occupational and environmental medicine with many years of experience investigating and diagnosing pesticide-related illnesses, especially in farm workers and their families. In 1988, Dr. Moses founded the Pesticide Education Center, a non-profit organization devoted to educating the public about the hazards and health effects of pesticides, and the availability of non-toxic alternatives. Her concern about "designer poisons" led her to write this book. "Designer poisons" are pesticide products sold over the counter for indoor, outdoor, pet and human or personal use. The term also refers to the commercial use of pesticides applied by professional pest control operators. Many of the urban uses of these poisons are cosmetic and non-essential, but continue to be used because designer poisons are a big business. Consider the following US indicators:

Dr. Moses points out that many people consider designer poisons as posing no health risk. It is the experience of this reviewer that too many environmental activists regard designer poisons to be a low priority issue or non-issue. With regards to their safety, Dr. Moses produces the following findings:

In response to these facts, Dr. Moses declares "the state of pesticide regulation continues to be a national joke."

Particularly relevant in Designer Poisons is the specific information about brand name over-the-counter products for indoor, outdoor, pet and human use. The book presents an analysis of survey findings on their effects, followed a discussion of non-toxic alternatives. Brand name pesticides are classified according to their use, formulation, inert ingredients, active ingredients and potential helath effects.

The book also briefly analyzes pesticide laws and regulations, like the USDA, EPA, FIFRA, California Proposition 65, reviews the shortcomings of regulatory agencies, and offers recommendations for change. These recommendations include new labeling requirements, prohibitions on certain products, and the development of a new category of pest-control operators trained in non-toxic or least toxic methods. Future research on this issue should also include specific focus on those vulnerable to designer poisons-children, the elderly, and those with multiple chemical sensitivities), and expand the discussion on the effects of designer poisons on immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption. An expanded discussion on ecoscaping-living ground covers, naturalized environments, and edible foodscaping-is another topic that merits inclusion.

Kudos to Dr. Moses and the Pesticide Education Center for a most impressive contribution-the first book length work on the much neglected issue of the urban, cosmetic use of pesticides. This primer will serve well those seeking more "ammo" for anti-pesticide campaigns. Designer Poisons deserves a wide readership.

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