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Long Island (along with Westchester and Manhattan) has far more pesticide applied to it every year than the rest of the state, as measured by pounds and gallons sold and reported used.
Suffolk County in particular is notable for the amount of pesticide used and detected. The soil and underlying strata of the island’s geology are porous, and Long Island has its own aquifers and groundwater fed by surface water seepage. Ground water and well water tests in both counties detect over ten different pesticides, some in levels exceeding the maximum allowable dose.(Refs 1,2) Shockingly, fifty one percent of private wells sampled in a 2002 DEC/Suffolk county department of health study were contaminated with pesticides or pesticide related chemicals. Furthermore, runoff feeds fresh water (and pesticides) into the estuaries and bays surrounding the island.
Many pesticides are confirmed or suspected carcinogens, act as endocrine disruptors, or disrupt central nervous system function. Epidemiological studies link pesticide exposure to childhood cancers. Other pesticides appear less toxic in lab studies, so have never undergone tests for environmental and ecological toxicity. The combined effects of several of these chemicals could prove very toxic in a way that would not be predicted by basic laboratory tests.
Pesticide use in Long Island falls into three groups:
- commercial (such as landscapers and pest control), and
Most of pesticides found in Long Island’s ground water today come from pesticides applied to farms and many have been banned (and presumably not used) for 10 years or longer. Clearly, the calculation of pesticide risk needs to be projected far into the future. Today, farms are being developed for housing, and regulated pesticide use agriculturally is down somewhat (due in part to regulations). However, commercial and residential activities are swelling enough to fill in the gap, as suburban homes are commonly “treated” with a concentrated chemical arsenal meant to eradicate pests or unsightly weeds.
The result of Long Island’s abuse of pesticides is clear- an increasing concentration of various pesticides leaching into the ground water and spreading, and increasing concentrations of pesticides affecting organisms they were never meant to target in the marshes, bays, and water faucets. These chemicals will be causing harm for years to come, so it is critical to address the problem now.
To get involved:Edit
We can modify our own behavior. If you are using pesticides, a reevaluation of the necessity and amount you are using could be in order. Spread the word. Visiting your garden store and request they carry non- toxic alternatives, such as borax and beneficial nematodes. Check out Neighborhood Network's Organic Lawn guide,  for the name of organic landscapers and garden stores that stock non-toxic alternatives, as well as tips on pesticide free living.
Mount a Pesticide Prevention campaign, which works through governmental and regulatory channels and directly with providers and consumers to educate about use and reduce pesticide use.
- Pesticides include herbicides and insecticides, pest poisons etc.
- 1. 2005 Suffolk County Water Report http://www.scwa.com/SCWA_2005_AWQR.pdf
- 2. Nassau County Department of Health http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Health/EnvHealth/Water%20Quality/monitoring.html