Dave Dz.

My Experiences with (Synthetic) Pesticides

I had always had a love for gardening. In high school I took gardening and lawn mowing type jobs. In my spare time I read books, took night school courses and made trips to the local garden centre to learn, see what is new and try and expand my knowledge on the subject.

As time went on I started taking courses at a local college and started my own landscaping/gardening business. I built up my clientele list, bought tools and equipment. I became a Licensed Pesticide Applicator and I was expanding my knowledge and services into areas which homeowners wanted.

My dog “Sheeba” came with me everywhere. My clients knew her as well as my suppliers. The people at the local gas station had goodies for her as well as the drive-through lady at the Burger King. Everyone knew the two of us.

Although my Licensed Applicator Training concentrated very heavily on legislation, regulation, use of a calculator and being able to read a label, very little touched on effects on the environment or human health concerns. I carried on spraying these chemicals (weed and insect killers) assuring my clients I was using “safe” products (after all Health Canada had approved all of them).

As time went on clients were increasingly asking questions about what I was spraying. Some of my clients were pregnant, had children with asthma or had an elderly parent living with them. I didn’t take much notice but carried on, business as usual. I started looking into the issue further. I started with reading MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and more reading took me to the internet and speaking to my instructors. I learned many of the physical “symptoms” I had were from spraying these chemicals. The headaches, burning throat, light-headedness, twitching, and blurred vision were from my spraying peoples’ yards with weed killers and insecticides.

I had to ask, if I am having these problems what am I doing for our environment? My clientele? Our wildlife? What is going to happen to my precious dog? This was a major turning point in my career. That winter I did a great deal of researching and discussing my concerns with other colleagues and instructors. The next spring I offered “environmentally friendly” lawn and garden services. The 2,4-d was replaced with (if needed) hand weeding, the Malathion was replaced with Btk (a safe bacteria used to control caterpillars on plants) and the salt-based fertilizers were replaced with organic ones.

Through word of mouth my client list grew and I was able to charge more for my services. All of the lawns I cared for were the greenest on the block and weed-free. They took less water during the heat of the summer and were the first to green up in spring. I could not take on any more clients.

Unfortunately, my changes were not done in time. My precious Sheeba (of 12 years) had to be put down. She had a mammarian cyst about the size of a fist. She was in pain. This was the hardest decision I had ever made in my life. She was with me through the best and the worst of times. Everyone knew and loved Sheeba. I had to put her down.

 It is well documented that 2,4-d (the most commonly used weed killer) is a cancer-causing chemical.

Today I still take pride in doing maintenance of lawns, gardens and acreages (gardening) as well as installation (landscaping). My career is doing better than ever, but now without dangerous chemicals.