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steven-gilbert-2My guest today is toxicologist Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, He’s a regular guest who is helping us understand the toxicity of common chemicals we may be frequently exposed to. Today we’re going to talking about pesticides, which is a large class of chemicals with many different degrees of danger. Dr. Gilbert is Director and Founder of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and author of A Small Dose of A Small Dose of ToxicologyToxicology- The Health Effects of Common Chemicals.He received his Ph.D. in Toxicology in 1986 from the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, is a Diplomat of American Board of Toxicology, and an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington. His research has focused on neurobehavioral effects of low-level exposure to lead and mercury on the developing nervous system. Dr. Gilbert has an extensive website about toxicology called Toxipedia, which includes a suite of sites that put scientific information in the context of history, society, and culture.










How Pesticides Can Harm Your Health

Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT

Date of Broadcast: April 14, 2015

DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world and live toxic-free. It’s Tuesday, April 14, 2015 and today we’re going to be talking about pesticides. Pesticides is a very big subject, we’re not going to be able to cover every detail about every pesticide on this show. It’s an enormous subject. But we were going to talk about pesticides in general. How they can affect your health, different things about pesticides that you should be aware of and what you can do instead of using toxic pesticides. We’ll throw a few tips in there too.

My guest today is toxicologist Dr. Steven Gilbert. He, I think is the most regular guest on this show. I think he’s done more shows than anybody else He has so much information to share with us as a toxicologist who is dealing with toxic chemicals and their health effects every single day. He knows so much and I’m so grateful that he spends so much time doing shows on Toxic Free Talk Radio, so that we can have all that information.

Hello, Dr. Gilbert.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Hi good morning. How are you doing?

DEBRA: I’m doing well. How are you doing?

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Very good, it’s a beautiful day here in Seattle.

DEBRA: It’s a beautiful day here in Florida too in Clearwater, Florida.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: [inaudible 00:02:26]

DEBRA: Okay, good, good. Let me ask you an off-the-subject question here because you have solar panels. Somebody wrote to my Toxic Free Q&A blog the other day asking me if there were EMF dangers associated with solar panels?

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: No, the solar panels turn the sunlight into DC power. So DC power is converted to AC, which we use in our homes. At the size of the panels or down could be a box or a house column inverter. And then that energy is then moved over to your electrical box and passed back to the house as AC current. So there’s no EMF other than what you would normally have if you’re connected to the grid.

DEBRA: Yeah that’s what I thought the answer was too. She was really concerned about solar panels having more EMF dangers, but I can’t imagine that they would be worse than high intensity power lines.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: No, not anywhere near as bad as high intensity power lines. I think solar panels are very passive by and large. They’re great investment. I wish Florida to had better rules and regulations, better incentives. We have some of the most restrictive laws in the country about using solar panels, the most difficult ones.

DEBRA: Well, I wish we had better laws too because we have so much sunshine, it just seems natural. I was reading a book about the history of solar energy. At one time in the past, there was more solar energy used in Florida than anywhere else in United States like back in the 20s and 30s. The people had solar water heaters and all kinds of things like that. It was a very big thing in Florida. And now, I practically never see a solar panel.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: It’s really unfortunate that the government is not providing more incentive. The Washington state is very fortunate. They have very good incentives for using solar panels. So it’s a really excellent investment both financially and for the environment. It’s really unfortunate Florida hasn’t followed suite with providing incentives for [inaudible 00:04:30].

DEBRA: I agree and hopefully that will change.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Hey Deb, talk to me a little about that. Find out what politicians are thinking about solar power.

DEBRA: I will, I will. Okay let’s talk about pesticides. This is such a huge subject. And one of things that I want to say just right off is that I think that people who are not educated as much as they could be on toxic chemicals think that if they hear a word like pesticides or plastics or some of those VOCs, terms like that, they really represent a whole class of chemicals and not just one. There’s not just one pesticide. When you say pesticides, we’re talking about thousand, thousands of chemicals.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Thousands, tens of thousands.

DEBRA: Yeah, and so each one of those affect our bodies in different ways, infecting environment in different ways. And the thing that’s most interesting and I think important to me as a human being is that they have different degrees of toxicity, but they also stick around with different periods of time.

There’s something called the half-life. If you want to know, listeners, if you want to know how long it takes for a pesticide to no longer be there, what you want to look up is something called the half-life. It doesn’t even tell you like it’s going to last for 30 years. It will say, “It will just degrade half way in so many years.”

And so you really need to know, “Is this a short quick, biodegradable pesticide or is it going to last for 30 or a hundred years?” I think that’s one of the most important questions.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: That’s a really important question and a really important comment. And I want to point out, I just want to make a note that today, 1964, Rachel Carlson died. So really, it’s the anniversary Rachel Carson’s death and she’s the author of Silent Spring in 1962. She was born in 1907 and was a marine biologist. She was a brilliant writer and she received the Presidential Award medal of honor in 1980.

I just want to read a couple of quotes from Rachel Carson’s book. So one of them is, “We are rightly appalled by genetic effects of radiation. How then can we be indifferent to the same effects of the chemicals we disseminate widely in our environment?”

Another one is, “As crude a weapon as the caveman’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life.” And this goes not just for pesticides, but for a wide variety of chemicals that we’re exposed to.

Another one is, “The control of nature is a phrase conceiving arrogance, more a Neanderthal age of biology and the convenience of man.”

And lastly, “If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals, eating and drinking them, taking the into the very marrow of our bones, then we had better know something about their nature and their power.”

And I think this last quote is most important because if we’re using pesticides (and pesticides do have a good function and purpose), we really need to know a lot about your nature and power and you define one of the most important ones is how much they bioaccumulate and biomagnify.

Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring was really about DDT, which bioaccumulates. In fact, it can be excreted in the breast milk and can be long lived. They live very long with the environment. It’s destroyed a lot of the birds and now it’s showing up in our whales, and other mammals that are in the oceans.

So bioaccumulation in pesticides, really important to be thinking about.

DEBRA: One other thing that I notice in looking at your pesticides chapter this morning, I should say – oh, I didn’t introduce you. I just said hello to you. Dr. Gilbert is the author of a book that I highly recommend called, A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals. And you can go to his website,, and get a free copy of this book, a free pdf copy of this book.

And I was looking at the pesticides chapter this morning before the show and I notice that you have a little picture of an old ad for DDT and I had to smile because I did a two hour long seminar a few years ago and I started with a similar ad for DDT. The point being, that DDT used to be, before it was banned (and this is the pesticide that Rachel Carson wrote about in Silent Spring), it was advertised by the government to housewives, encouraging them to use it and spray it all over everything.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: It’s in our wallpaper. You buy impregnated wallpaper with DDT.

DEBRA: Wow, I didn’t know that. But yeah, it was I think, called the ‘housewive’s friend’ or something like that. It was an extremely toxic pesticide that does not break down quickly and so then it bioaccumulates. And when you have something accumulating in your body, it accumulates and accumulates, and then you get sick at a certain point. If your body accumulates enough and you get sick – except that DDT is extremely, extremely toxic, so it doesn’t take much.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, DDT is a classic example of bioaccumulative organochlorine pesticides. And the reason it got so widely used is it’s highly effectively. It’s highly effective against mosquitos (although they’re adapting to it a bit). But it didn’t appear to be toxic to humans and the animals because if you [inaudible 00:10:27] there are some classic pictures of people following a spray truck down and playing in the mist and they had DDT in it.

But then we found out that – and this is back to the in points, what in point you’re looking for. It was a disastrous for high predator birds and their bird shell eggs and destroyed huge populations of eagles. Now the birds are just coming back now. We were not paying attention to the other toxic effects including [inaudible 00:10:51] low level effects to humans.

DEBRA: We need to go to break but when we come back, we’ll talk more about pesticides with Dr. Steven Gilbert, author of A Small Dose of Toxicology. And you can actually just go to and look for today’s show and you can click right on the title and it’ll take you exactly to the page where you can get this free book, which is very valuable. We’ll be right back.


DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert from Toxipedia. His website is

Dr. Gilbert, you mentioned earlier that this was the anniversary of Rachel Carson’s death and during the break I just ran and got my copy of Silent Spring. I think it’s wonderful that we serendipitously chose this date because I didn’t know that this was her death anniversary. But I’d like to read some of my favorite quotes from Rachel Carson too in between.

So here’s one, “Storage of chemicals in human beings has been well investigated and we know that the average person is storing potentially harmful amounts. This situation also means that today…” and this is 1962, “…today, this means that the average individual almost certainly starts life with the first deposit of the growing load of chemicals his body will be required to carry, henceforth.”

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: That’s absolutely correct that you’re exposed to a wide range of chemicals, including other industrial chemicals as well as pesticides starting at conception and moving forward. We also know that kids are not little adults. They eat more, breathe more, drink more than the adults do and they’re smaller, so they’re exposed and they have a bigger dose, their exposure to chemical.

DEBRA: Yes they do, they do. One of the things that I was horrified to realize when I read Silent Spring – and you would think I would read Silent Spring many years ago because I’ve been doing this work for 30 years, but it was only about five years ago that I read Silent Spring. When I read in that book that they already knew in 1944 that pesticides were ubiquitous on the planet, that there was no place that you could go where there were no pesticides, they already knew that in 1944, that meant that I was born already polluted.

I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that when I was born in 1955, there were already pesticides everywhere. I’m sure you’re familiar with that study that the Environmental Working Group did a few years ago where they tested the blood of newborns and they found all those chemicals. I thought, “Oh, this is something recent that’s happening.” But no, when I was born in 1955, and everybody, all of us, we were all born already polluted because our parents already had toxic chemicals in their bodies.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: It’s really true. We really need to be more aware of that and paying attention to that issue because we’re exposed a lot of chemicals. And you can see the rate of disease, childhood diseases has also increased.

You made another really good point. Pesticides are just one thing. There are also other different classes of them. There are herbicides that kill plants, there are insecticides that focus on the insects, there are rodenticides that focus on rodent and fungicides that focus on other microbes and fungal material.

So there’s a wide range of chemicals. We’re not exposed to just one pesticide, we’re exposed to a range of different pesticides. They have different functions and different mechanism of action.

DEBRA: Well, like in a typical day, how many pesticides do you think we’re exposed to?

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Oh, God! I don’t know. That’s a good question because if you think about what we eat – and there’s some really good study that show that eating organically grown food does reduce your exposure to pesticides. It is hard to get a hand on what pesticides are being used because there’s no reporting system for that, but they do look in metabolites.

So there are different classes of organophosphates, organochlorine and some of these pesticides have similar metabolites. And usually, you’re tracking metabolites of the pesticides, not the actual pesticides. When we’re exposed to a variety of them, they can cause reproduction effects a lot of times, intellectual deficits in brain development, cancers, there’s immunological diseases. So pesticides are something to be really careful of.

And I also want to mention that a part of my websites, I have a website called IPMopedia for integrated pest management, which really talks about trying to reduce the use of pesticides. Chemical pesticides should be the last resort in the management of any kind of pest, whether it’s a plant bug or a rodent.

DEBRA: I totally agree. So I would just like to think for a second and see how many pesticides I can identify that someone might be exposed to during a day.

So there could be pesticides that you’re breathing like household pesticides that you’ve sprayed for ants or flies or any kind of bugs. There might be mothballs, which is a pesticide. There might be in your food. Unless you’re eating organic food, there most certainly will be pesticides.

Let’s see, where else? Outside, you probably have some pesticides in your garden. And if you haven’t applied them, maybe your neighbors have or the city has applied them and that you’re getting pesticide drift. If you’re using natural personal care products, but not organic, there’s going to be pesticides in them. If you’re using not natural personal care products, that’s going to have other petrochemicals in them, but not pesticides because they’re not made from plants.

Let’s see, what else? Can you think of any others off the top of your head?

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah. Well, if you are a worker, if you’re a farm worker, you’re exposed to a wide range of pesticides in much higher concentrations, if you’re a child out working in these fields, if we’re tracking pesticides indoors.

I think that’s another reason why we need to take our shoes off when we come inside. Modern pesticides break down the sunlight to track them indoors and into your carpets. And so they’re hand to mouth. They have their hands on the carpets, remember? These pesticides last longer indoors than they do outdoors. So it’s really important for you take out your shoes and wash your hands when you come indoors just to protect against pesticides.

Another curious modern type pesticide is a nanoparticle, nanosilvers impregnated a variety of products. They’re designed to control bacteria and funguses. These nanomaterials, including nanosilver, are in more products. They also should be considered as pesticides for that purpose.

And you have to think about the school environment for kids. We tried to get integrated pest management policies used at schools. We worked hard at that in Seattle here. Oregon’s got some good laws in there. I’m not familiar with what’s there in Florida. This is another very important area because children, remember, are small, they are exposed, but they have a bigger dose for their small size and their systems are developing and they’re more vulnerable. So the school and playgrounds are really important areas of exposure to pesticides.

And you mentioned diet, nutritional issues. Water supplies can be contaminated. So it’s just a wide range.

DEBRA: When we come back from the break, which we have to go to now, I want to talk about pesticide regulation. I know that’s something we don’t usually talk about except that pesticides have a lot of regulations and I want our listeners to find out something about this because that indicates to me how toxic they are.

You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert. He’s at We’ll be right back.


DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert who’s the author of A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals and his website is

It’s a very interesting website because he really looks at toxic issues not just from the health effects, but social, environmental, historical, all kinds of different viewpoints. He knew some things like today is the anniversary of Rachel Carson’s death and she wrote, I think, the first popular book on pesticides, Silent Spring. And here we are talking about Silent Spring today, pesticides today.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, I agree. Sheesh, I would nominate her being on the dollar bill.

DEBRA: What?

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: I would nominate her for being on the dollar bill when we change those one dollar bills.

DEBRA: Good idea! Yeah, yeah, I really think that Rachel Carson was so pivotal and what she wrote was so important just as a foundation of what we need to know today. She really needs to be highly, highly honored and more. The new generations need to be introduced to her and she needs to be not be forgotten because she just was in the world of toxics, which I think is the number one most important issue in the world today. She has definitely laid the groundwork for where we are today.

So I want to talk about the regulations of pesticides.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Before we come to regulation, can I add more comment? You asked a really important question about our exposure. I want to mention that the nature has made a lot of pesticides. And when we drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine in it is actually a pesticide. We find it as a stimulant, but a very small bug would find it toxic because of their small size. A very small exposure’s a big dose.

The thing with nicotine, the nicotine is a actually a widely used pesticide extracted from tobacco plants. But nature’s been developing pesticides. In response, humans don’t have the liver to metabolize these unwanted chemicals that are really from plants. From [inaudible 00:29:02], from trees, there’s pyrethroid from chrysanthemums.

So there are all kinds of pesticides that are “natural“, they are grown up by nature because it is war out there, trying to keep the bugs from eating the plants and the plants dominating other plants.

The pesticides are both natural and we’ve develop a very nasty way of manufactured chemicals that go all the way up to producing inert gases, [inaudible 00:29:31] gases and others that are highly toxic. We sort of dumbed those things down to protect our plants.

DEBRA: Yes, I totally agree. I totally agree with everything you said. The reason I thought about regulations, I was thinking about it earlier before the show, but you mentioned silver, putting in nanoparticles of silver as a pesticide. And the two things that I want to say here are, “When is that?” I think that silver is a good example of a less toxic pesticide. You could have a pesticide that is airborne that’s very toxic and you’re breathing it in or you could have something like silver that is mixed into paint and then acts to control mold on a wall and you’re never really exposed to that silver because it’s just a particle that’s encapsulated in the paint, but it kills the mold.

But regardless – let me finish my sentence and then I’ll let you talk – regardless of the toxicity or what are exposure is, every pesticide, anything that’s considered to be a pesticide has to be registered with the EPA. I think that that, to me, indicates how toxic these things are.

I just had somebody write to me in my Toxic Free Q&A about a product that somebody had asked about a couple of years ago saying that the EPA had ordered them to stop distributing it because it was intended to kill mold, therefore, it contained a pesticide and it had to be registered by the EPA and it wasn’t.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: That’s right, yes. So the pesticide regulations are really interesting. The FIFRA, the Fungicide, Insecticide, Rodenticide Act, the Federal Insecticide Act goes back to 1947. I think it was 1972 that it was moved to EPA. So the EPA took over FIFRA, which regulates fungicides, rodenticides, insecticides, and herbicides.

This is really great. There are good regulation, pretty good regulations around the active ingredients of pesticides. They had testing done to them to try to understand their consequences to the organism as well as other ecological hazards, for example, to nematodes or frogs, some things like that. For example atrocy is an herbicide that appears to affect the development of frogs.

So the EPAs are required and the companies are required to do a lot of studies to assess the potential hazardous effect.

Now the problem is there’s also inert ingredient. So the pesticides, the active ingredient on the label is a very small amount. So what are these inert ingredients? Inert ingredients could be surfactants. It helps the herbicide, for example, to penetrate leaves, which can increase their toxicity to other plants and animals.

So understanding inert ingredients in that package of pesticides is also really important. That’s not as well managed as it could be. It’s hard to find out what these inert ingredients are.

DEBRA: Yes. It’s very hard to find that.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, it’s very hard to find out in some cases. So I think you have to be really careful with the regulation.

There is also the Food Quality Protection act. It gives a little bit more authority and try to move it more toward the precautionary approach especially when it came to child health-related issues and child exposure because children are the most affected class of people because of their detrimental effects in developing nervous systems.

And pesticides, many of the pesticides act on the nervous system. They act to affect neurotransmitters through these organophosphates and acetylcholinesterase. They inhibit metabolism of acetylcholine. Excessive acetylcholine cause death and other side effects.

So pesticides are hazardous and it’s really about how much you’re exposed to and the dose response of the pesticides.

DEBRA: One of the things that has been in the new the last week – I don’t know if you saw this about the family that went on vacation in the Caribbean and a nearby room was being sprayed with regulated chemical, regulated pesticide that should not be used indoor. A company, Terminix, the company that should know how to use a toxic registered pesticide applied this incorrectly and it turned out that they’ve been applying it for the past year and this family got so sick from it that they have to take them to the hospital and then airlift them to America. When I see stories like this, I just say, “These kinds of pesticides should not be on the market at all.”

We need to go to break, but I’ll let you respond to that when we come back. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Dr. Steven Gilbert. When we come back, we’ll talk more about pesticides.


DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert from and he’s the author of A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals, which you can get for free. Every household should have one.

Okay, Dr. Gilbert, so what do you think about what had just happened with the family getting sick from pesticides in that hotel room?

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, there’ s just no excuse for that kind of exposure to pesticides indoors. That comes back to just being a lot more cautious in the pesticides we use and know exactly what chemicals are being used. Chlorpyrifos is a very toxic, very useful pesticide in agriculture, but very toxic. It was banned from home-use in 2001.

You mentioned paint. Paints can also have pesticides in them. One of the use is mercury. They actually put mercury in paint because mercury is a very good fungicide. You paint mercury in woodwork. If a family painted the walls of a child’s bedroom with a mercury-based paint (mercury added to the paint), the child can be really affected by the mercury exposure because the mercury evaporate out of the paint.

So it’s very important to understand how these products work within paint. Do they evaporate out? What problems can it cause?

And remembering that, in the example you mentioned, pesticides sprayed in home, it’s in the air, it’s on the floor, on the woodwork. The child can easily get contaminated with pesticides and eat them or ingest them as well as breathe them in.

So we need to be a lot more careful and that goes back to integrated pest management where you really want to program that looks for the reason you have pest. One of the most important reasons is you’ve got food for the pest. You’ve got to take the time to understand the biology of the pest and how best to interrupt that and get rid of the pest that you’re trying to control the pest.

And there’s many ways to do it besides using strong chemicals. Having an integrated pest management particularly around school is really important because kids spend a lot time there and there are good ways to control the pest whether it’s a rodent or it’s an insect without resorting to toxic chemicals.

DEBRA: That’s totally right. I know that I grew up in a world which [inaudible 00:41:09] this. I’ve said this before, but especially people who were born around the time that I was born, we were born into this new age of – all these chemicals have been developed during the World War II, in the 50s, then we’ve got DuPont’s talking about better living through chemicals and suddenly, they’ve got all these chemicals and they’re saying, “Oh, let’s take all these war time chemicals and use them in our culture.”

And so everybody just like spraying pesticides and toxic chemicals all over everything, thinking that they’re fine and so we have that mentality of, “There’s a pest, spray a chemical on it, you’re sick, take a pill.”

And in fact, there are all these other things that you can do. We have to remember that our houses and our schools and our businesses, everything is built in these ecosystems where these things that we call ‘pests’ live. If we have some awareness that we’re living in an ecosystem, then we can get to know these other creatures who have a right to be living here and see how we can be sharing the space in a way that they get to have some space and we get to have our space in a way that they don’t.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Actually, one great example of that right now is the colony collapse of bees where bees are being infected. The latest study is showing that one of the pesticides may be a nicotinic-based pesticide that’s affecting the bees. Bees are clearly important pollination for the plants that we depend on for food supply.

So you’re absolutely right. We need to be thinking not just of ourselves, but also the whole equalizing of system. That’s what Rachel Carson really tried to bring out in Silent Spring. We do not live in isolation. I live in Seattle, Washington here. And at my desk this morning, I get to look at the window and I saw three bald eagles circling around [inaudible 00:43:01]. And that’s the result of our being more cautious with pesticides. Birds were able to recover [inaudible 00:43:09] DDT and got less exposed to DDT and other organochlorine compounds.

So it’s really, really important just to mention there’s been a great increase in disabilities in kids from 1997 to 2008, 17% increase in hyperactivity disorders, 78% increase in autism, child with cancers an increase 25% from 1975 to 2004, diabetes increase by 53%, now obesity has gone up a 131%. All these are due to not just pesticides, but pesticides are a big factor now. We really need to be cautious about all the hazardous chemicals that we expose ourselves to early in development.

DEBRA: Well, we have about six minutes left. Well, five minutes left. So let’s just talk about real quickly what are some alternatives. First of all, you could eat organic food instead of eating conventional food with pesticides. So what’s another thing people could do that’s quick?

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Well, real quickly is don’t use pesticides around your house. If in doubt, do a little weeding and get some exercise if you’re trying to get rid of weeds. That’s what I do, I get out there. I enjoy being outside and do a little weeding. Do not use pesticides around your house. Some of the provinces in Canada, Ontario, I think British Columbia have banned the domestic use of pesticides. Forty percent of the pesticides we use are by home use, which contaminates our streams, contaminates our water supply. It gets into the lakes and rivers around our home.

Do not using pesticides at home. Look and take an approach where if you’ve got some kind of pest, ask where it’s coming from, ask whether you can tolerate little bit of it and then move on to and try to control it by removing food source. If you have ants, you have rodents, ask why the pest is there. You can do that with some landscaping too, even plant crops. There are plants that help control unwanted other plants.

DEBRA: I just want to tell a quick story about a success I had with pest control that was not toxic. I used to live in an apartment building in San Francisco, a small apartment building that had like 12 units or something and there was an ant problem. This was when I was still first learning about things and so they notified all of us that we were going to have an exterminator come and I said, “No, I’m not having my unit sprayed. That’s it, period,” but I knew that everybody else was going to be sprayed.

And so what I did was I just used my common sense and I took some Elmer’s glue and a sponge. I watched where the ants were coming in and I just wiped them up. And then I found like a little crack where they were coming and I filled it with Elmer’s glue. The next day, they came in again and I did the same thing. After three or four days, I had filled all the cracks with Elmer’s glue.

Now I want to tell you, honestly, this story I’m telling you is true, I never saw another ant. I never saw another ant. Everybody else who were having their apartments exterminated all still had ants. I was the only one that didn’t have ants.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, that’s a great, great story. You should write that little story up. In fact, that’s a great example of integrated pest management where you ask, “Well, how did the ants get in there?” and then you block the road. They’re going to go where they can get food and water and other nourishment for them. If they can’t get it, they’re blocked, they’ll go someplace else. So, that’s a great example of using integrated pest management.

DEBRA: Yeah, and you can use that for any pest because the pests need to stay outside in their environment and we need to, say, “This is our boundary” and we say that this is our boundary by filing in cracks, by putting out screens on the windows and things like that. And so it’s just a matter of claiming our territory and saying that’s your territory and this is our territory. We don’t have these very toxic chemicals all over the place, we don’t need to kill the pests. The only reason we think they’re pests is because they’re in the wrong place. So we just need to put them in their place and claim our place. It’s very simple.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, absolutely. And rodents are the same thing. Find out what the food source is. Don’t use rodenticides on rodents because other creatures will eat those rats or mice and they will get sick from eating that toxic material.

It’s really important thinking not just of the pest, but also the consequences of using chemicals on the pest. I love your example about those ants. That’s a great story.

DEBRA: Thank you, I love that story too. Anyway, we now just have about 2 minutes left, so is there any final thing you want to say?

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: I think the most important thing is not to use pesticide. They should be the absolute last resort whether it’s herbicide or insecticide or rodenticide or fungicide. Do that only as a last resort. Learn about the biology of the pest, get out there and do some weeding in your garden, hand weeding. I get my grandchildren out there and we go weeding. It’s very fun to do. It’s a good family thing to do and do not use pesticides.

Think about where those pesticides are going when they flow off your property and into the streams, what the consequences of those might be. Think about the other birds and the other wildlife that you might be harming by using pesticides.

So the important thing is take an integrated approach to management of the pesticides. Remember that we live together with lot of other creatures.

DEBRA: Yes, we do. We’re all interconnected as Rachel Carson said. I highly recommend that everybody read Silent Spring. It’s an excellent, excellent book. We just need to keep her memory alive and keep her message alive.

So my guest today has been Dr. Steven Gilbert. Thank you so much for being here, Dr. Gilbert. You can go to his website. Oh, you want to say, “You’re welcome,” but I keep talking. Thank you for being here today.

DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Alright! Bye bye.

DEBRA: Bye. He’s at You can go there get A Small Dose of Toxicology. That’s his book, A Small Dose of Toxicology: The Health Effects of Common Chemicals. If you go to, you can just look for today’s show and click on the title and it’ll take you exactly to the page where you can get this book. It’s a basic book about toxicology that should be in every household. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. Be well.


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