Around home and farm: It’s your health

By Jerry Mahan

Pesticide absorption in the body.

Pesticide absorption in the body.

Submitted photos Poison Hemlock located along State Route 380.

By Jerry Mahan

New research in recent years has brought to light many more aspects of the potential danger of mishandling pesticides whether you are a homeowner, gardener, farmer or pesticide applicator. Exposure to chemicals used in controlling insects, plant diseases, weeds are all on the list of potential dangers.

The effects of pesticide exposure may not show up for years or they may be immediate. Some companies and individuals have really done some stupid things in promoting the safety of pesticides including the story a local ag chemical dealer told me of a salesman drinking a weed killer chemical at a sales meeting to show how safe it was in his opinion.

While we have come a long way in recent years in educating those who apply pesticides we still have much to do. I watched a commercial pesticide applicator a few days ago at a large shopping center apply a weed killer via a backpack sprayer to the islands of raised beds throughout the shopping center. To his credit he was wearing long sleeved pants and shirt to protect his body as well as a hat and sun glasses to limit his exposure to sun skin damage.

The air temperature was around 70 degrees F and there was little wind so the potential of the material moving off site to other non-target plants was minimal. Once air temperatures go above 8o-85 degrees F spray products can move without wind through volatilization. This applicator also had gloves on but they appeared to be leather. Likewise he was wearing leather shoes. You ask why the problem with leather? It absorbs chemicals like a sponge. Better to wear neoprene gloves or the type mentioned on the label of the spray material. Likewise wear footwear of rubber or similar material which will shed the spray.

Again check the pesticide label for more details. In my position as extension educator I remember the experience of a co-worker from Clark County who had worked with a farmer for several years who seemed to always get sick with skin and breathing problems at planting time. After this went on for a few years his doctor diagnosed his problem as his leather shoes. For whatever reason this farmer always wore a certain pair of leather shoes at planting time and switched shoes as the summer progressed. Over the years his leather shoes had absorbed several different pesticides and as the adjacent picture show your feet are one of the points of the body which can absorb chemicals the easiest.

One last point I want to make on my pesticide applicator in the shopping center. After spraying the weeds he proceeded to clean off the islands in the parking area with a leaf blower but he was not wearing any ear protection. Leaf blower and similar tools are notorious for producing a high pitched sound level above 85 decibels and can result in hearing loss over time.

“It’s your life and health,” so do the best to protect yourself.

June observations

While on my way in early June to an evening field day on State Route 380 I noticed what I describe as a sweet smell. The smell or odor brought to my attention there must be poison hemlock growing nearby. Sure enough as I drove south out of Xenia I noticed numerous patches of this noxious weed growing along the road as well as in fence rows and along streams. On my return trip in Xenia I noticed some growing along streets in Xenia as well.

I do not want to let the rest of Greene County off the hook as it is common in almost all townships. State Route 42 and US Route 68 corridors are notorious for this weed. Poison Hemlock weed has become a terrible problem in recent years as it spreads so easily by birds, wind and the continued growth seemingly uncontrolled by property owners. The weed poison hemlock is poisonous to animals like horses, cattle, sheep etc.

The fortunate thing about this weed is it is usually not the most palatable one and is eaten in a pasture as a last resort if nothing else is available. It is poisonous to people as well and is thought to be the poison that killed Socrates. Some people also get skin irritations from handling the plant.

June is the time of year that one of our most prolific poisonous weeds makes its appearance known through sight and smell –poison hemlock. Poison Hemlock (scientific name is Conium maculatum L.) Is in full bloom as I write this column in mid- June. Once you see it and smell the flower one can drive down many roads and know it is present by the smell alone. It has a white flower and can grow to a height of 6-8 feet or more.

The stalk has characteristic purple blotches; is hollow between the nodes and the leaves have a feathery appearance. The plant resembles Wild Carrot or Queen Ann’s Lace on steroids. This weed can cause death in animals if they eat enough of it. Luckily it is usually the last plant eaten after other plants have dried up. Once eaten by the animal poison hemlock can cause respiratory failure. For a better picture of this weed log on to view pictures of the weed. Go to “Weed ID” and scroll down to “Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide”.

Poison Hemlock is a biennial weed best controlled in the spring and fall. Fall treatments are more effective when they contain glyphosate and 2,4-D. Control of poison hemlock needs to occur while the plant is in the vegetative rosette state, so early spring is a good time to control second year plants and fall a good time to control first year plants.

Recommended herbicides include 2-4-D, dicamba (Banvel/Clarity), Crossbow (2-4-D plus triclopyr), Remedy Ultra (triclopyr) and glyphosate. Since all of these products are designed to kill broadleaf weeds you may have damage to pasture plants like clover, or alfalfa. The Remedy Ultra, and Crossbow are the most expensive of these products but according to the 2016 Ohio and Indiana Weed Control Guide BL. 789 ( they do the best job of controlling this weed.

Always follow label instructions on all weed killers. Sadly at this time of year when the plant is flowering and in its second year of growth the only control measure is to mow it. The plant will die after flowering but can spread hundreds of seeds for the next generation. So for now mark on a map where you see the infestations of this plant and be prepared to spray the new ones this fall or next spring.

Locally grown foods

Our Monday June 27 Greene County Farm Forum program opens an ongoing discussion dealing with our food supply. Representatives from the Greenacres Foundation of Cincinnati will share their farming operation which deals with locally grown foods including beef, chickens, pork, fruits, vegetables and eggs which they sell locally. They also operate a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program where local residents purchase a membership in the project and receive in return a quantity of vegetables and fruits. More info can be found at:

The June 27 program will start at approximately 7 p.m. and will be held at Union United Methodist Church located at 393 Washington Road in Xenia. A meal will be served at 6:30 p.m. at a cost of $10 per person for those interested. Please RSVP Paul Ayres by Friday June 24 if you intend to have dinner. No reservations are necessary if you just wish to attend the meeting. Contact Paul Ayres at 937-352-6379 or email him at [email protected] The meeting is open to the public and is sponsored by Greene County Farm Forum.

Pesticide absorption in the body. absorption in the body.

Submitted photos Poison Hemlock located along State Route 380. photos Poison Hemlock located along State Route 380.

By Jerry Mahan

Jerry Mahan is a retired OSU Extension Educator Agriculture and Natural Resources for Greene County. He can be reached by email at: [email protected]

Jerry Mahan is a retired OSU Extension Educator Agriculture and Natural Resources for Greene County. He can be reached by email at: [email protected]