What Can Kill a Bug Can Also Kill You

By Qin Sun Stubis

Thanks to advances in medical science and technology, people live longer and ever more productively. And, they have learned to take better care of themselves. Besides going for annual physical checkups religiously, they do everything they can to stay healthy and strong. After all, health is one of the keys to a happy life.

Those who have health-related problems have found ways to cope: Asthmatic people avoid pollen, diabetic patients shy away from sugar, and those who have heart troubles watch their cholesterol. Even the lucky ones without any ailments don’t want to take life for granted. We exercise, take vitamin supplements, and listen to health experts. We develop a lifestyle and pay a great deal of attention to what we eat.

When we go grocery shopping these days, we prefer organic products and natural foods to avoid unnecessary exposure to pesticides and toxins. After all, we are what we eat. With cancer rates on the rise and obesity affecting a large portion of our population, taking every precaution seems wise.

But will healthy food be enough to ensure our health and longevity? While what we put into our mouths is important, it is just as important to pay attention to what we put into the world immediately around us.

While my husband and I were taking a stroll in a stately neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C. one sunny Saturday afternoon, a strong odor suddenly filled the air. We gasped for breath and had to quicken our pace to get out of the sweet, choking cloud. As I shielded my nose under my shirt collar, I saw a gardener across the street spraying a beautiful, well-manicured lawn with some sort of mist, a large apparatus on his back. He didn’t have any protection on his face and seemed not to be bothered by the fumes at all. I blinked my watery eyes in disbelief.

As we walked on and heard birds singing, I started to worry about them innocently flying to that lawn and pecking around its pesticide-laced grass blades. What if that family had young children and they crawled on that grass and picked the flowers around the edge? How many lawns will this guy spray this weekend? I was too scared to let my imagination go further.

I started to question if families think much about how and with what their lawns will be treated when they hire gardeners, besides writing a check every month for their services.

Sometimes I see tiny yellow flags on the edge of properties with words too small to be read. But if I bend down and squint, I find them to be warning signs that pesticides have been put down. Families may be able to instruct their youngsters not to play outside for a few days until the poison “dissipates,” but how about our wild friends: scampering squirrels, hopping cottontail rabbits, and red-breasted robins who love to feel the earth beneath them and search out worms for their meals? How can we warn them to stay out the way of dangers we intentionally spread all around the very place we live? Furthermore, how do we know that the poison won’t eventually be washed down the drainage pipes and end up in our drinking water? A bug-free lawn may bring many unintended consequences.

What can kill a bug can kill you. And remember that what you put into your garden or on your lawn will affect your health just as much as what you put into your mouth. It will also have an impact on the lives around you, big or small, human or animal.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com

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