Sicker, Fatter, Poorer:

 the urgent threat of hormone-disrupting chemicals to our health and future

Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  © 2019

available at the Scottsdale Public Library


Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science

Carey Gillam

Island Press  © 2017

available at the Scottsdale Public Library



Children and Environmental Toxins:
What Everyone Needs to Know®

Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc

and Mary M. Landrigan, MPA

Oxford University Press  © 2018

available at the Scottsdale Public Library





Happy Earth Day! This year's Earth Day theme is "Protect Our Species." So in honor of all species, this week we'll be sharing information about alternatives to using toxic chemicals for pest control. We'll start off with one of the most important species - bees.

Spring in the desert brings the bees out! While a swarm on your property can be scary, remember that these pollinators play a critical role in our food supply. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that bees pollinate approximately 75 percent of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States. There are options to have bees removed instead of killed. Here are a few companies that will humanely remove bees from your property and give them a new life:

The widespread use of pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides (“neonics”), threatens bee populations worldwide. This brochure is packed with practical information you can use for Protecting Bees from Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Your Garden.


Spring is mosquito season! Check out these preventive measures for keeping the blood suckers at bay and safer alternatives to chemical sprays.

  • Use least-toxic repellents with these active ingredients: oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) 30% and picaridin 20%. Find helpful specifics here: How to Repel Mosquitoes Safely.
  • OLE and lemon eucalyptus essential oil are two distinct compounds. OLE 30% has proven efficacy. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil, on the other hand, is not as effective and, because it evaporates quickly, provides a much shorter window of protection.
  • Select rosemary and other plants that repel mosquitoes: 11 Fragrant Plants That Repel Mosquitoes.
  • Birds and bats love to snack on mosquitoes. Welcome them into your yard by hanging bird feeders and bat houses.
  • Blow ‘em away! To enjoy your patio bite-free, create a light breeze from a box or oscillating fan set at low or medium speed.
  • #1: Eliminate standing water sources.



Pet owners are probably familiar with these tiny pests, but you don’t have to be a pet parent to have a flea problem. Here are some least-toxic strategies to keep fleas at bay:

  • Treat flea-infested outdoor areas with nematodes. Nematodes occur naturally in soil and will not adversely affect beneficial soil organisms, plants, pets or people.
  • Vitamin B1 has been shown to reduce flea bite frequency. Veterinarians can recommend a B-complex vitamin supplement or a small dose of brewer’s yeast for your pets.
  • Bathe pets frequently with soap and water. Restrict pets to a single bed, washing the bedding frequently to kill larvae and adult fleas.
  • Groom pets with a flea comb daily. After each stroke, pick off any fleas caught in the comb and put them in soapy water.
  • Light Traps are compact traps composed of a small electric light and a sheet of sticky paper or a small tub of soapy water. Adult cat fleas may be attracted to the warmth and light of the trap. Fleas are more sensitive to green light and are more attracted if the light is turned off for 10 seconds every 5-10 minutes.
  • Vacuum daily with a strong vacuum cleaner, changing the collection bag often.
  • For more tips, check out Keeping Fleas Off Your Pets and Out of Your Yard from the City of Sacramento and Least-Toxic Control of Fleas at Beyond Pesticides.


Cockroaches are one of the most common pests in metro Phoenix. They’re typically found near food, warmth and moisture, although some species prefer dry environments. Cockroaches enter our homes and other buildings through sewer drains and small structural gaps. They also hitch a ride inside boxes, groceries, pre-owned electronics and furniture. To combat roaches without toxic chemicals:

  • Don’t invite them in! Seal entry points such as door thresholds and vents with weatherstripping, screens, foam and caulk. Be aware of “vehicles” that transport “hitchhikers.”
  • Don’t be hospitable! Eliminate food sources and moisture. Often overlooked: don’t leave pet food out overnight.
  • Use trash and recycling cans with tight-fitting lids, empty them frequently, and don’t keep them under the sink.
  • Trap cockroaches in upright, baited pint jars. Apples and potatoes make good bait; banana peels are most attractive to German cockroaches. Change the bait frequently. Spread a 2-inch wide band of petroleum jelly on the inside lip of the jar to prevent trapped roaches from escaping. Locate jars where roaches are most likely to find them, such as under sinks. Kill the trapped insects by dropping them into hot water. If no roaches are trapped in 2 to 3 days, move the jars. Commercial traps are also available.
  • Learn more at Beyond Pesticides’ Least-Toxic Control of Cockroaches


Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs – two words that most likely make you feel very itchy! Bed bugs can hitch a ride into your home on luggage, clothing, bedding, boxes and furniture. Once they’ve moved in, they are tough to get rid of. Today’s bed bugs have become highly resistant to insecticides. And who wants to douse their clothes, shoes, toys, books, bedding and furniture with insecticides anyway? Fortunately, one of the most effective strategies against bed bug infestation is also non-toxic: HEAT.

  • Frequent travelers use portable bed bug heaters such as PackTite to rid their packed suitcases of stowaways.
  • A residential clothes dryer run on high for 30 minutes can kill bed bugs at all life stages. A dryer with a removable rack works well for items that can’t be tumbled, such as shoes, purses, knick-knacks and books. At the right time of year, black plastic bags in our hot Arizona sun make effective heat chambers.
  • Furniture and other big items are treated in larger heat chambers. Steam heat is used behind baseboards and on mattresses, upholstered furniture and carpeting. Professionals treat entire rooms and storage containers with whole room heating systems. Read more at
  • A bed bug infestation may be the one time you want to leave your vehicle parked in the hot Arizona sun. A constant interior temperature of 118°F maintained throughout the vehicle for at least 90 minutes should do the trick.


In 2012, herbicides accounted for the majority of pesticide usage in the United States: 57% of total and 47% in the home and garden sector (EPA 2017; most current data available). And so, we close out our Earth Week series with earth-friendly alternatives to toxic weed killers.

Less-toxic herbicides fall into eight product categories: natural acids (acetic and citric), fatty acids, herbicidal soaps, iron-based, salt-based, phytotoxic oils (clove, peppermint, pine, citronella), corn gluten meal, and combination products.

Two good resources to find less toxic weed killers:

DIY Recipe = vinegar (1 gallon) + salt (½ cup) + dish soap (1 tablespoon)

Spray when weeds are small (2-5 leaves) for best results.

Note: Commercial horticultural vinegar products utilize 10-30% acetic acid which is more effective than household vinegar (5% acetic acid).

Got grass? Healthy grass is the best defense against weeds. However, despite the Scotts mantra, synthetic fertilizers and toxic herbicides do not create a healthy turf ecosystem. In fact, did you know Canada banned “weed & feed” products years ago? Get off the chemical treadmill!

Two good resources to grow a healthy weed-free lawn:

Weeds can be effectively controlled with non-chemical strategies as well, for example:

  • Flame weeding and steam weeding “cook” plant tissues. Queen Creek Olive Mill uses flame torches to forego the use of dangerous herbicides in their grove.
  • Low-tech solarization uses the power of the sun to control weeds and soil diseases in landscapes, gardens and raised beds.