Arsenic and berries???

kms4meJanuary 8, 2005

I recently corresponded with someone who has the same mole and gopher problems that I do. They told me they seeded the planting beds with arsenic pellets before they planted their acres of berries on their PYO operation. I was horrified, my first thought was about the possibility of ground water contamination, and my second was the possibility that their fruit is taking up the poison as well. They told me there were no problems with doing this.

I use no pesticides in any of my gardens, and only limited amounts of chemical fertilizers, so am I just overreacting? This really bothers me as I keep thinking the folks who buy their berries may be at risk, as well as the growers themselves.

I'd appreciate others' thoughts on this.


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It's amazing how ignorant people are of health risks from chemicals such as arsenic. The treated wood that has been used everywhere for the past many years, has finally been taken from the market and replaced with something less(?) toxic, because of the arsenic hazard.

The information sheet that is available at lumberyards to inform people of the proper handling and disposal of the sawdust and waste, goes into detail about warnings to wash thoroughly after handling this stuff, and people still think it is safe to use on things like picnic tables, lawn furniture, and playground equipment, things that are handled every day. I'm a volunteer fireman, and the thought of responding to a home on fire with this stuff used on decks and even basement walls, bothers the heck out of me because of the toxic smoke released.

I hope everything that these people try to grow on there dies or grows poorly from the use of that material. I'd sure hate to be eating food that came from this place, I hope none of the food I buy anywhere else has been grown on farms using this stuff.

There are too many allowed chewmical poisons used on food, I don't think we need more!


Here is a link that might be useful: Arsenic and treated wood health problems

    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 10:25AM
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Thanks for responding. I can't believe that anyone ever thought treating lumber or soil with arsenic was a good idea.

I never even thought of the dangers of inhaling smoke from treated lumber. Very frightening.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 2:51AM
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jayreynolds(zone 6/7)

My first comment is that it sounds unlikely. Perhaps the person that described the use of arsenic just didn't know what they were talking about. If you are talking about strawberries, usually those people use soil fumigants which indeed do sterilize all life from the soil, but they don't use arsenic.

more comments-
Aresenic pellets wouldn't be effective against moles, they are insectivores.
Uusal practice for gopher control is setting up bait stations, not "seeding the planting beds", which would be a waste.

I'm not accusing Kate of anything at all, but to me it sounds like someone gave her some misinformation.

I can't be sure though.
It would take a very foolish person to purposely contaminate soil they intend to grow food which they would sell to others. If you have real proof that such a thing has been done, it should be reported to the state EPA.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 12:08PM
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Some people do crazy things when they buy pest control materials. I know of one person who used some Diazinon on potatoes to control potato beetles. Seems that the warnings for that material didn't recommend it's use on potatoes. How long does it take to rid the soil of these chemicals before they are safe for consumption? Crops like Rape, will take up hazardous materials from the soil, but you need to dispose of the crop and not use it for compost.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 2:44PM
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Seeding the bed with arsenic pellets is what the market gardener indicated to me had been done before the berries were planted, after I had indicated my frustration with the futility of trapping moles and gophers. In frustration, I had bought a bottle of "poison peanuts" to possibly use in the rodent tunnels in my ornamental beds (never my vegetable gardens) but then could not bring myself to use them. That's why the gardener told me what she and her family had done to prepare their plot for berries and assured me there was no problem with this.

Unfortunately I do not know the location of the PYU or the name of the operation.

I mentioned this to an older retired farmer who lives in the area who said this was not that uncommon of a practice years ago.

Do either of you have ideas on ground water contamination?


    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 11:23PM
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mark_brown(7 NC)

I know this whole thing sound very bad. It appears we have shown it is not effective. Soils are pretty resiliant and the recover ok much of the time. Contamination of ground water will depend on a lot of factors including rain fall and subsoil structure. Arsenic occurs naturally in our soils and even in the air. Different soils have different concentrations. Arsenic is in just about every thing that you eat in the fruit and vegetable world, there are studies that show this. The amount is very small and our bodies handle it ok [I guess]. In Texas there are areas high in floride and it gets into the crops there. Everyone needs to always be concerned and protect the soil and ground water all we can.

Pressure treated wood is not as bad as most people believe, the chemicals do not leach out very well. But do use caution when cuting and sanding and of course, never burn it. Sorry for the fireman, many foundations are PT wood. My house was framed with PTwood. Not a good Idea for the future.

We have introduced a lot of things to our environment, or better said we have moved a lot of things around and have disrupted things a whole lot. There are plus and minus to every thing. Chlorine saves lives every day with safe water to drink. Now when you heat that water up and blast it thru a shower nozzel and realll break it up and form free radical chlorine molecules that you breathe in while you shower. Thios is a deadly thing and vey likely a source of cancer. Our dear bodies have a lot to cope with these days but a lot not to cope with. 100 years ago the 3rd leading cause of death was diptheria [spelling].


    Bookmark   January 10, 2005 at 4:59AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

"Pressure treated wood is not as bad as most people believe, the chemicals do not leach out very well."

Not true. I don't know about the PT wood they're producing now, but the arsenic+ wood that was in recent use DOES leach out.

There was an article in Organic Garden Magazine telling how a mother became worried about using PT lumber to create raised vegetable garden beds. She had her soil tested and the poison levels were very high. She contacted the producer of the PT lumber and here's what they did: they sent men out to dig out the raised beds & the soil beneath it, they took out all the PT raised beds & replaced them with safe ones, replaced the soil with non-contaminated soil.

NO company, and I mean NO COMPANY is going to that expense if they didn't know they had a serious issue on their hands.

Our government once told us that DDT was perfectly safe, that there was no issue of radioactive fallout from above-ground nuclear testing, and that Agent Orange hasn't caused cancer & other problems when it was dumped on our soldiers in Vietnam (RoundUp is diluted Agent Orange, BTW).

Don't let your govenment or Big Business do your thinking for you. They don't give a rat's patootie about you.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 4:10PM
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mark_brown(7 NC)

yes, right, sure, ok......sue

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 6:36PM
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Round-up is diluted Agent Orange????

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 9:33PM
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mark_brown(7 NC)

Belgianpup , the leaching of chemicals out of PT wood is extreemly slow, Studies have shown this over and over. Soil contamination my be due to other things and not the PT wood. One must be very careful in looking at any situation, I have seen test results from grocery store fresh vegetables with high levels of arsnic, as stated before it is an element that occurs in nature, it is in the ground, depending what ground in different concentrations. Mark

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 9:55PM
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Mark and Sue,

I thank you both for posting and reviving this thread. I appreciate the opinions and concerns expressed here. You both have strong opionions, and I think debate is good for everyone.

Since the thread has taken on a few different tangents including the leaching of arsenic from chemically treated wood, I'd like to voice another concern. I'm not being contentious here, but one of the issues that troubles me is that both of my children played regularly on playground equipment (and I with them), at schools, parks, and friends' homes that were contructed with chemically treated wood. Studies I've read have indicated that arsenic is found on the surface of such wood as much as 15 years after the structure was built, and since children regularly stick their fingers in their mouths, don't wash their hands before eating unless parents can watch them 24/7, and since children's skin absorb things at a much more rapid rate than adults, I don't find it comforting that the chemicals leach out slowly from the wood. It seems to me that makes it a health hazard for a much longer time.

Sue, like you, I am less than convinced about the government's interest in protecting me.

Mark, I really appreciate your thoughtful replies. You indicated that one should take care if sawing, sanding, or burning pressure treated wood. Do you know if arsenic is more toxic if inhaled than if it is consumed through eating plants or drinking water?

Thanks again to both of you and to others who have replied to my posting.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 4:14AM
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mark_brown(7 NC)

In general inhaling something is the worst case, the blood asorbs or can asorb it in the lungs very readily. Also in general the more you heat something and the more you physically break it down the more likely it is to be absorbed. For example, chlorinated water is heated in a hot water tank and then sprayed to a fine mist from a shower head, as you shower you are exposed to chlorine free radicals, in your lungs they are more easily absorbed than drinking a glass of water, due to the physical changes, heat and spraying, they have changed. They are potiental starters of cancer. Hopefully you body finds them and takes care of them, lots of good things you eat help with this, anti - oxidains and the like.

Yes, not a good Idea that the chemicals in pt wood leach out, and playground equipment is very obvious, and there are other sources, it may already be in the soil, perhaps.

I share every ones concern, believe me I do, you see My now 20 year old son had a very rare bone cancer at age 12, all is very well now, god blessed him, he only had his right leg amputated. I could have and can if I choose lie awake at nite and ask why for a long time, I suspect it was the groth hormones in milk, but there is no proof. so what do we do, wee seek the alternatives, using pt wood where it does not come within a reasonable distance of our vegetables and fruits, being stewards over our land and soils and protecting then and also educating others. How far do we ggo in doing these things? sometimes the choice is yours, other times the choices are made for us by regulating bodies, like if a farm is certified organic, we know certain things, but we do not know all.

So fear not and go on and care for the soil, it may be our most presicious resource after the water. remember no ocean, no oxygen. Try to educate others along the way, fight the good fight. and remember most of all, we need everyone, with out the abusers where would we take the fight, with out the exteemist on the other end who would lead the fight.

I know this has been long and likely a little off topic at times, forgive me. And do not wory my son is very well and if his pants are on and he is walking down the street you would never know there is a fake leg under those pants


    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 4:52AM
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No, Roundup is not "diluted", concentrated, half strength or any strength, Agent Orange (by the way, the primary problem in Agent Orange stemmed from the production of dioxin impurities during the manufacturing process at that time). Roundup is not even in the same chemical class.

This reinforces the idea that we should all make at least some attempt to check out our "facts" first, before we pass them along to posters here.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 10:47PM
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