EXHAUST EMISSIONS LINKED TO HUMAN HEALTH THREATS

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the U.S. there are 45 million people living, working or attending school within 300 feet of a major road, airport or railroad.3 Hundreds of studies have linked air pollution to a wide range of human health threats from low birth weights to brain cancer, from asthma to leukemia.  For example:

  • A Center for Disease Control review of seven studies involving over 8,000 children found that children diagnosed with leukemia were 50% more likely to live near busy roads than children without leukemia.4
  • A UCLA study linked autism in children with prenatal exposure to traffic pollution.5
  • A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that women exposed to high levels of air pollution in their third trimester of pregnancy may be twice as likely to give birth to a child with autism6
  • A study of 60 million Americans—about 97% of people age 65 and older in the U.S.—shows that long-term exposure to airborne fine particulate matter and ozone increases the risk of premature death, even when that exposure is at levels below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. 7
  • University of Colorado researchers have warned that benzene, toluene and xylene may disrupt the hormone system in humans beyond levels deemed “safe” by federal standards.8
  • According to the University of Southern California, at least 8 percent of the more than 300,000 cases of childhood asthma in Los Angeles County can be attributed to traffic-related pollution at homes within 75 meters of a busy roadway.9
  • A study involving the VA Saint Louis Health Care System in Missouri estimates that about 14% of diabetes in the world—or about 1 in 7 cases—occurs because of higher levels of air pollution, primarily due to particulate matter. 10

These are sobering statistics—and there are hundreds more.  But there is good news:  There is an alternative octane enhancer that makes our fuel safer and our air cleaner—ethanol.

WHAT’S IN OUR GAS IS KILLING US

87. 88. 89. 91. Those numbers on the yellow stickers you see on the gas pump indicate the octane level of the fuel, a measure of the fuel’s performance under compression in your engine.

But it’s what’s behind those numbers that poses a serious health threat to you and your family. And it’s why ethanol is the “clean air choice” when it comes to better engine performance and improved air quality.

FARMERS GO TO SCHOOL: PESTICIDE EDUCATION

Thank you to Illinois Farm Families and Trent Sanderson for today’s post!

Pesticides are an important tool in a farmer’s toolbox because if left alone, insects, weeds, mites or fungi could kill an entire field. However, we’re not just spraying pesticides without careful consideration and education. Every three years, farmers have to go to school and pass an exam to become certified to use pesticides on their crops.

A private pesticide applicator license is required for anyone using Restricted Use pesticides to produce an agricultural commodity on property they own or control – in other words, farmers looking to apply pesticides in their own fields. The “Restricted Use” classification restricts a product, or its uses, to be used by a certified applicator or someone under the certified applicator’s direct supervision.

Before the exam, farmers learn:

  • The who, what, where, when and why of pesticides
  • Safe handling and usage of pesticides
  • Pesticide laws and regulation
  • Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

IPM is the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and utilizing those techniques in the field. IPM emphasizes healthy crops grown with the least possible disruption to the ecosystem and encourages natural pest control mechanisms. In short, farmers consider and employ multiple pest control methods, not just pesticide use.

Over the years, we have accomplished using fewer pesticides, less frequently thanks to research and technology. Whether it’s seed genetics, crop rotation or automated farm equipment, farmers continue to improve their integrated pest management program in the interest of preserving the family farm and the environment.

Trent Sanderson farms with his family in northern Illinois. Together they grow corn, soybeans, wheat and a small herd of beef cattle. He and his wife, Elizabeth, and live near the farm with sons Owen and Jack.

EATING HEALTHY? WHERE TO START?

The internet is a vast, confusing source of information about how to eat healthy. And it seems to be about this time of year when folks are trying to make good on their New Year’s resolutions that those google searches about healthy recipes and which apple yields the biggest metabolism boost.

One thing that doesn’t need to enter your thoughts? Spending more money to buy organic.

While organic and non-organic foods are produced using different farming methods, nutritionally, they are no different. Both organic and non-organic food uses pesticides and other methods of protection to keep your food safe.

In this blog post from Illinois Farm Families, a Chicago mom discovers some of the differences, and similarities, between organic and traditionally grown produce.

Here’s a notable quote from her post:

” I have always assumed that organically grown fruits and vegetables were basically “naturally grown”, meaning existing in or caused by nature.  So I thought they were grown in a greenhouse or large garden, with no pesticides or chemicals used at all.  What I learned is that organic farmers are able to use pesticides and fertilizers, they just have to be of plant or animal origin.  Besides, traditional farmers aren’t just out there spraying pesticides all over their fruits and vegetables all willy-nilly.  Pesticides and fertilizers are used to make sure the farmers are able to provide the best possible products to their consumers.  Make sure you wash your fruits and vegetables and any left over residue is not harmful.  So I feel very comfortable continuing to purchase traditionally grown fruits and vegetables for my family. “

Learn more at WatchUsGrow.org

SCORE ONE FOR FARM SUSTAINABILITY

SUSTAINABILITY: A WHOLE FOOD SYSTEM APPROACH

I’m in the food business. Like you and everyone in the food supply chain, from farmers to ingredient processors to brands and retailers, I want a sustainable food supply. That means food companies work with farmers to set specific sustainability standards and source ingredients based on those standards.

Dirk and grandson

LOW SCORE WINS

The Fieldprint® Calculator app helps farmers measure and track environmental impact. I grow corn, soybeans and wheat on my farm in central Illinois. After harvest each year, I input data into the calculator and it gives me a score based my estimated carbon footprint. The scoring system is similar to golf – the lower the score the better.

The score is based on a variety of factors including:

  • Trips across the field (fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Fertilizer used (when and how much)
  • Pesticides used (when and how much)
  • Biodiversity
  • Soil conservation
  • Water quality
Fieldprint Calculator

CALCULATING CHANGE

Next, I review a “web graph” that represents my sustainability performance compared to state and national averages. I use the results to think critically about what I could improve on my farm next year. Personally, what I value most is being able to see how my farm compares to my neighbors because they have to deal with the same weather, pests and soil that I do.

Soybeans growing in corn and cover crop residue

DATA DRIVES DECISIONS

Before this calculator, I used soil conservation practices including cover crops and minimal tillage, both of which help prevent erosion and increase organic matter in the soil. When I first began using the calculator, I was happy to see that my score was already low and I was doing excellent work in many categories. There was, however, one category that I didn’t score as well in: fertilizer use.

I applied the same amount of fertilizer to all areas of my fields at the time, but looked into other options once I knew there was room for improvement. Now, I apply fertilizer at a variable rate, meaning my field is split into sections and I only apply as much fertilizer as each individual section needs based on soil test results. It’s like each acre of my field has it’s own prescription. Giving the soil only as much fertilizer as it needs reduces waste and has improved my score in the Fieldprint® Calculator app.

WE ALL NEED TO BE PROFITABLE

To me, sustainability is about conservation practices, but it’s also about profitability. I believe the two go hand-in-hand. After all, a farmer can’t keep using sustainability measures without succeeding in their business. The calculator app is a great way for farmers to benchmark change and justify conservation methods that can improve their land and their bottom line.

DIRK RICE, IL CORN DIRECTOR and ILLINOIS FARMER

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY POSTED AT WATCHUSGROW.ORG