Thursday, May 3, 2012

A balance of evils

The news cannot have escaped you: ticks are expected to have a banner year.  I’m sure this news thrills you as much as it thrills me.  I have dogs and cats who go outside. I like to go outside myself.  I know that there are infected ticks in my own backyard (a neighbor was infected by a tick in the park across the street last summer).  So, as some people cast their minds towards whether it’s time to replace that grill and whether there’s still time to expand the back deck, I’m thinking about chemicals. Sum-sum-summer-time, you know. 
Now, reasonable minds may differ on this. Mere repellants do not appeal to me. In my mind, no tick should live to bite another day. Permethrin is, then, should be my chemical of choice. It's what's recommended as being a safer choice than a potential tick bite.  So my analysis is easy and I'm all set, right?  As with all things Lyme, it's never that easy. 

Permethrin has some issues.  It's a neurotoxin. Probably. Also, it probably causes cancer. But the EPA hasn't really looked into that, so it's hard to say. It is highly toxic to aquatic critters (and probably plants, but that's not really been studied all that much either).  It's highly toxic to honeybees and apparently it will kill my cats.


My neurological system is already plenty compromised, thanks. Cancer kinda runs in my family.  Permethrin, then, may not be the best option for me. 

I'm also pretty sure that another tick-borne infection would do me in, so I reluctantly must consider mere repellants.  Picaridin is the new, cool tick repellant kid on the block. It seems pretty okay, except that it may be toxic to freshwater fish.  The World Health Organization feels it does not present an unacceptable health risk.  I'm not sure I find that a glowing endorsement. Every natural herbal option I've tried has, on me, acted as insect perfume.  Bugs dig me, especially with some fresh sauce. 

I want the perfect chemical. I want something that is only toxic to ticks. Okay, and mosquitoes.  Fleas would be nice too. But not my cats. Not innocent fish, or algae.  And not, you know, me. I want a toxin that makes moral judgements and decisions, that can be smart, agile. It's emotional decision making, I know. I think I'm allowed. What I want, indeed, what I feel I deserve, and you deserve, is a toxin as smart as borrelia burgdorferi and its cousins. We get smarter about cancer every day. We could get smart about insect-borne diseases. But we don't. Still. So I will weigh my options and make the best choice I can. it will not be the best option we are capable of producing--of that, I am certain. 


Sparrow said...

hmmm, maybe powder your yard with DE (diatomaceous earth - food grade, no other variety)? You do not want to breathe it, but it won't poison you nor your pets. It is like razor blades to the bugs; unfortunately all bugs, good and bad. It is like flour to us, but puts cuts in the shells and skins of bugs so they dehydrate and die. It is not an instant killer, but it does work. I use it in my garden soil with great success. I also use it in my chicken feed and mixed into strawberries for my box turtles to kill internal paracites. Box turtles can die from medications but DE has effectively killed pin worms with no ill effects to my turtles at all.

Karen M. said...

Hi It's Just Me--

Any time I hear that someone has chickens, my heart glows with happiness :).

I actually cut about the last four paragraphs of that post--in part because it was getting awfully long, and in part because I was so frustrated. There's so much "better than nothing but" out there...To me, tick-borne disease ought to be a national health emergency. We shouldn't have to be out here balancing the better-than-nothings in the hinterlands, so to speak.

Sparrow said...

Hi Karen, I agree. You know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention. My children said we need to biologically engineer a virus that eats the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, and dies after one month of no contact with it. Their idea was to mass inject this virus into deer all over the country. Unfortunately for their idea, infected ticks are not sticking with their deer... but it is an interesting idea. If children are able to come up with an idea like that, surely scientists can come up with something that will actually work.

Rida said...

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Regalos Personalizados

Popcorn Dog said...

Hi Karen,
Any luck, a year later, finding a solution? I just pulled a tiny embedded nymph deer tick off - this of course now means my chronic lymes will flare up.... Ugh... I just want to garden in peace :)