Dear Ms. Household Environmentalist: Because of an ongoing discussion concerning the advisability of using pesticides for fruit-producing plants, I was sent a copy of one of your recent columns (re: use of Diazinon on spinach leaves) as an argument against pesticide use. Obviously, one should not ingest Diazinon. But is it harmful to eat the fruit of a plant that has had Diazinon granules dug into the soil around the plant or before planting the seed?
Assuming that none of the pesticides touched the fruit, or, as in your case, the leaves of the spinach plant, would eating the fruit or the spinach leaves be harmful? Especially if they were thoroughly washed? Can plants absorb chemicals from the soil in their original poisonous form? I think not but will become an organic gardener if the answer is yes. Hopefully, the parent, in this case, is right.
Dear New Organic Gardener: I hate to side with your uppity offspring, being a parent myself, but I am happy to welcome you to the ranks of organic gardeners. According to Holly Kennell, extension agent for the Cooperative Extension Service, King County, Washington, plants can absorb Diazinon. That means your cherries will contain some detectable amount of Diazinon even though you carefully dug the granules in around the roots of the cherry tree.
Dear Ms. H.E.: I read your column on non-toxic flea control with great interest, and I've sent away for the publications you recommended. We live in a rural area, and I wonder if you're aware of any similar publications for the non-toxic control of ticks.
Dear Reader: If you sent away to the Bio Integral Resource Center for its "Least-Toxic Flea" pamphlet, you probably have been sent its publications list, which will answer this question for me. But for other readers interested in keeping ticks out of their hair -- and other body parts -- send $6.50 to BIRC, P.O. Box 7414, Berkeley, Calif. 94707.
Dear Ms. H.E.: I read your column about air cleaners. I was interested in the final section about air cleaners that emit ozone. We purchased a spa about a year ago with an "ozonator" that emits ozone. The ozonator is supposed to clean the spa water so that the use of chlorine and similar chemicals is unnecessary.
We were pleased to discontinue use of chlorine, since chlorine molecules seem to be quite detrimental to the ozone layer. My concern is with your statement that: "Levels of ozone required to kill microorganisms and oxidize odorous compounds are toxic to human beings." I realize this statement refers to air cleaners, but it raises serious questions in my mind, and I would appreciate learning how ozone in a home spa, used to kill microorganisms, affects human beings.
Dear Reader: Apparently the ozone bubbled into the water of your spa turns into a harmless form of oxygen by the time it reaches the air. A number of municipal drinking water treatment facilities around the country are turning to ozone as a water cleaner, but not because the form of chlorine generally used depletes the ozone layer. It doesn't. Chlorinated water has a different problem: Some of the byproducts of chlorination are carcinogenic.
Dear Ms. H.E.: I read your column regularly since my daughter has many allergies, dust mites in particular. In the literature that I have read concerning dust mites, I've learned that washing in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) is most effective in ridding bedding of dust mites. I'm curious to know if putting things in a hot dryer also works. Things like her beloved teddy bear can't be washed very often.
Dear Reader: Martha Foltz, a physician's assistant who works with allergy patients, believes that the dryer can help reduce the dust mite problem but won't be as effective as immersing the bear in hot water. She wonders if you've tried a product called Allergy Control Solution, available from the mail-order house Allergy Control Products, at (800) 422-DUST. It is made from tannic acid -- the stuff in tea -- and comes in a pump bottle. The tannic acid is non-toxic enough for use by people who are extremely chemically sensitive. Apparently, it works by inactivating the antigens in the dust.
Lee Mozina, an artist and a genius at designing creative solutions to her daughter's allergy problems, suggests this: If the bear isn't already very fragile, order a dust-mite-proof pillowcase, find a very clever tailor and have him or her deconstruct the bear, then reconstruct it, lining it with with the material from the pillowcase. It might work.