Lawns Be Gone!

LAWNS BE GONE!

GRASS LAWNS: ANIMAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND PUBLIC HEALTH RIKS

       By Michael W. Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS 

Some years ago I confronted an elderly neighbor who was spraying dandelions in his lawn with the selective herbicide Roundup. I told him politely that such chemicals can cause cancer and that dandelions are both nutritious and that there is evidence of their medicinal value in treating some types of cancer. But he continued spraying regardless and it was perhaps no coincidence that a year later he died from cancer.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for many, a perfect lawn is indeed beautiful. But when I see perfect lawns on private and corporate property, golf courses and in public parks I see abominations devoutly to be transformed: At least untreated with herbicides and chemical fertilizers and ideally re-wilded with indigenous plant varieties.

Aside from the constant seasonal noise and air pollution of gasoline-powered mowers, these green, chemically-treated biological deserts are hazardous on many fronts which some scientists, including ecologists and veterinary toxicologists, have investigated and clearly documented.

Before being purchased by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, Monsanto Corp. demanded that I retract my comments in my nationally syndicated Animal Doctor newspaper column about the many health and environmental risks of their herbicide Roundup, which I refused to do, and they sent a letter discrediting my science-based concerns to all newspapers that published my article. Now, in one of the largest civil settlements in U.S. history, Bayer has agreed to allocate close to $10 billion to resolve around 125,000 filed and unfiled cases claiming its glyphosate-based weed-killer Roundup causes cancer. The deal will still allow Bayer to sell Roundup without adding any warnings, the New York Times reported. It comes after three juries in early, high-profile trials awarded more than $2.4 billion to plaintiffs who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after long-term Roundup use.

This herbicide, still widely used in agriculture and around private property by homeowners and public places by municipalities is often combined with the herbicide 2,4-D, which is also used separately to kill “weeds” invading lawns. 2,4-D is an endocrine disruptor that can damage thyroid gland function and is a potential carcinogen. A 1991 National Cancer Institute study concluded that dogs exposed to just four lawn treatments a year significantly increased their risk of malignant lymphoma. (For details visit ewg.org/research/24D/pets-wildlife-24D.)

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared 2,4-D a possible human carcinogen, based on evidence that it damages human cells and, in a number of studies, caused cancer in laboratory animals. More conclusive is the proof that 2,4-D falls into a class of compounds called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, compounds that mimic or inhibit the body’s hormones. Laboratory studies suggest that 2,4-D can impede the normal action of estrogen, androgen and most conclusively, thyroid hormones. Dozens of epidemiological, animal and laboratory studies have shown a link between 2,4-D and thyroid disorders. (nrdc.org/stories/24-d-most-dangerous-pesticide-youve-never-heard).

Dr. Deborah W. Napp and associates published a report, “Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical applications,” in Science of the Total Environment. Volumes 456–457, 1 July 2013, Pages 34-41 The researchers found, “Chemicals were detected in the urine of dogs in 14 of 25 households before lawn treatment, in 19 of 25 households after lawn treatment and in 4 of 8 untreated households. Chemicals were commonly detected in grass residues from treated lawns, and from untreated lawns suggesting chemical drift from nearby treated areas. Thus, dogs could be exposed to chemicals through contact with their own lawn (treated or contaminated through drift) or through contact with other grassy areas if they travel. The length of time to restrict a dog’s access to treated lawns following treatment remains to be defined.”

In earlier studies, veterinarian Lawrence T. Glickman and associates reported that exposure to lawns or gardens treated with herbicides was associated with an increased risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers. Until additional studies are performed to prove or disprove a cause-and-effect relationship, owners of Scottish Terriers should minimize their dogs’ access to lawns or gardens treated with phenoxy herbicides. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004; 24:1290–1297) Canine malignant lymphoma (CML) has been established as a model for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).Results suggest that use of some lawn care chemicals may increase the risk of CML according to an analysis by Biki B.Takashima-Uebelhoer and associates ( Environmental Research Vol 112, January 2012, Pages 171-176).

In addition to the health and environmental risks of lawn herbicides we have the need for constant watering which promotes chemical run-off into surface and ground water. Also, frequent application of chemical fertilizers, (not just by agriculture) most noticeable from properties surrounding lakes, leads to eutrophication from fertilizer run-off, resulting in the blooming of aquatic algae. These can rob the life in the water of oxygen and endanger aquatic life. Blue-green algae called cyanobacteria sicken and kill many dogs and other animals every summer, even making humans ill when their water supply is contaminated. Dogs can develop poisoning when they drink from, or even simply swim in, contaminated water sources. If blue-green algae is ingested, it can cause severe neurologic and liver damage. Signs of blue-green algae toxicity include panting, respiratory failure, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma and death. Homeowners, community leaders, municipal authorities, and state and federal agencies involved in regulating the use of these and other chemicals in agriculture need to stop this insanity. Organic farmers are leading the way, along with books for homeowners like Doug Tallamy’s Nature’s Best Hope, to get rid of their perfect lawns and landscape with indigenous plants for the benefit of insects, birds, other wildlife – and our own health as well as our animal companions.

ADDENDA

On June 7, 2018, walking a local stream-side trail with my dog Kota I pulled out one of her empty poop bags to harvest the tender tops of some Sting nettles for soup (more nutritious than spinach and with more medical benefits) that grew in a few patches along the bank of Bassett Creek. I was shocked that most were wilted and dying. Then I saw a sign indicating they had been sprayed with Dow Agroscience’s herbicide Garlon 3A the previous day by licensed applicator Minnesota Native Landscapes and children and pets should be kept away. This herbicide is toxic to aquatic life, is a probable carcinogen and surely causes more harm to the environment and biodiversity than do the Sting nettles. Subsequently, on the morning of June 1318 I met two operatives with Applied Ecological Services readying to spray Aquaneat, which contains 53.8% glyphosate, along the bank of Bassett Creek fifty yards upstream from the area already treated by the other company to “control invasive weeds and stop erosion along the bank.”

These eco-friendly sounding company names belie the risks of the chemicals they profitably put into the environment that June rains in particular will quickly leach into the creek and ultimately our drinking water. There is enough coming from commodity crops like GMO corn, soy, canola and cotton without the addition from urban and suburban agencies responsible for environmental health and integrity of ecosystems and private property owners applying herbicides where they wish. Glyphosate and other herbicides disrupt the “microbiome” of beneficial bacteria in the gut with multiple adverse health consequences including increased intestinal permeability. This may facilitate the absorption of insecticides, notably Bt toxins (see below) and neonicotinoids linked with the demise of honey bees and other pollinators.

Deformed frogs were first discovered in Minnesota ponds by school children in 1995. Investigators later found these developmental and also reproductive problems were due to herbicides and an insect growth regulator, methoprene. Municipal authorities use these chemicals in fresh water ponds and other standing surface water habitats to control mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis virus and Zika virus by killing mosquito larvae in the water. But they coincidentally kill other aquatic organisms that normally consume the larvae such as dragon fly nymphs and aquatic beetles. Fewer healthy frogs means fewer tadpoles to consume algae, some of which, the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can produce lethal toxins that often sicken and even kill dogs like Kota if she drank the water.

Common biorational pesticides include the insect juvenile hormone mimic methoprene and pesticides derived from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, Lysinibacillus sphaericus and Saccharopolyspora spinosa (spinosad). Health agencies, the public and environmental groups have especially debated the use of methoprene because some studies have shown toxic effects on non-target organisms.”

Minnesota Metropolitan Mosquito Control reports that “The insect growth regulator methoprene and the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis var israelensis or Bti, are the primary larval control materials. These active ingredients are used in the trade-named materials Altosid® and MetaLarvTM (methoprene) and VectoBac® (Bti). Other materials included in the larval control program are B. sphaericus (VectoLex® CG) and Saccharopolyspora spinosa or “spinosad” (NatularTM G30).” Urban, suburban and rural communities across the state are subjected to routine aerial delivery of these pesticides to control mosquitos during the breeding season, now extended with climate change. Silent Spring is becoming Silent World.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is also applied across Minnesota and most other states by Departments of Natural Resource and Forest Management to kill various species of caterpillars, killing non-target species in the process. This onslaught on the insect kingdom is compounded by over 35 million hectares of GMO corn and close to 4 million hectares of GMO cotton genetically engineered to produce various Bt toxins which, along with other pesticides, notably neonicotinoids that circulate through the entire plant now threaten bee and other crop pollinating insects.

The domino-effect of these chemicals means insectivorous birds, bats, reptiles and other creatures starve to death and become extinct. In the absence of those species that helped control “pests” and insect-borne diseases we become ever more dependent on pesticides to which target species quickly evolve resistance. This was the prescient concern of organic farmers who opposed GMO crops that are engineered to produce Bt insect toxins and whose judicious use of Bt bacterial applications is approved under Organic Certification; and who also predicted the evolution of ‘superweeds’ resistant to glyphosate.

Frogs and other amphibians are becoming extinct all around the world yet they and other creatures play a vital role in controlling adult mosquitos. We have the science now to identify and correct many communicable (zoonotic) disease problems, but without the will of an informed public demanding responsible government and corporate behavior with regard to public and environmental health we will surely share the fate of the frogs.

SAFER “WEED” CONTROL: vinegar: an alternative to glyphosate? - University of Maryland Extension https://www.extension.umd.edu/.../Vinegar-AnAlternativeToGlyphosate-UMD-Smith-...attested that glyphosate may account for up to 90% of pesticide applications … As a non-selective herbicide, glyphosate will kill most plants it contacts. …. Nonetheless, using acetic acid on weeds with tap roots (dandelions, Canada … Bioganic Safety Brands Weed & Grass Killer - 10% acetic acid, 2% eugenol (clove oil), 2%. For more details go to How to avoid greenwashing and harmful pesticides in lawn care (ehn.org)

In Minnesota a bill has been passed by State legislature to support allotting $2 million to subsidize 75% of the cost of people converting their lawns to wild, indigenous flowering plants to help save the bees and other pollinators. Such legislation should be adopted by all states

From Dr. Fox’s newspaper column Animal Doctor with Andrews McMeel Syndication

FOR LIFE’S SAKE TRANSFORM THE LAWNS, May 4th 2021

DEAR DR. FOX, I am writing to alert your readers to an important and eye-opening book, Professor Doug Tallamy’s Nature’s Best Hope, (Timber Press, Inc., 2020), in which the author describes the dire threat to our native insect, bird and plant species and proposes a hopeful solution in which we can all participate. If everyone in the United States repurposed just half of their yards to make space for native species of plants, shrubs and trees, Tallamy argues, we would create a vast network of “homegrown national parks” that would provide more wildlife habitat than all of the national parks combined.

The days when our windscreens were encrusted with squashed bugs and our patio lights were surrounded by a haze of flying insects are now a distant source of nostalgia. How many monarch butterflies did you see last summer? How many Luna moths and praying mantises? How many box turtles? How many salamanders, frogs and toads? If you live in the vast swaths of urban, suburban and exurban America, the answer was most likely precious few, and certainly only a small fraction of what you encountered as a child. Monarch butterfly populations today are a mere 4% of their 1970s levels. And while Monarchs are charismatic and more visible than most insects, their fate is typical of about 90% of plant-eating insects.

Major factors contributing to these population crashes are herbicides, pesticides and habitat fragmentation. The well-manicured American lawn, long a cultural norm and status symbol, is a toxic wasteland for most of our native species. The native plants upon which our birds and insects depend have been replaced almost wholesale with introduced species of ornamental trees, shrubs, flowers and turf with which they have no evolutionary relationship. Whereas an introduced ornamental tree might host at most several butterfly and moth species (the larvae of which are crucial food for baby birds), a native oak tree can host over 500 species. https://www.wildaboutnativeplants.com/blog/2019/3/4/landscape-stewardship-step-1-plant-a-native-tree

This spring, beautiful as I find the gardens and yards in my neighborhood with their tulips and daffodils and flowering ornamental trees, they now make me sad because they also represent a huge wasted opportunity to support our struggling native species. I live in a condo but I went to https://www.monarchwatch.org/ and purchased some milkweed plants for a friend’s yard, and I feel a little better.

B.K., Washington DC

DEAR B.K., I have raised the issue of private and corporate lawns, public parks and playgrounds and golf courses in earlier columns that mean air and noise pollution from mowers, application of fertilizers that can cause toxic algae to bloom in close-by lakes and application of life-harming insecticides and herbicides, including human life, wildlife and our animal companions.

The “perfect” lawn is an abomination and is a creation of agri-chemical industry risk-denying cupidity and enculturated public stupidity. According to Bee City USA (https://beecityusa.org/welcome-pollinators-to-your-lawn-with-no-mow-may/) “ No Mow May is a conservation initiative first popularized by Plantlife, an organization based in the United Kingdom, but which is gaining traction across North America. The goal of No Mow May is to allow grass to grow unmown for the month of May, creating habitat and forage for early season pollinators. This is particularly important in urban areas where floral resources are often limited.

Beyond Pesticides reported on March 30, 2020 that Beyond Pesticides sued TruGreen, the national chemical landscaping company, for misrepresenting the safety of the toxic chemicals that it uses to treat lawns. The case is Beyond Pesticides v. TruGreen (DC Superior Court, Case No. 2020CA001973B, March, 20, 2020). At the same time, the organization is urging all states to prohibit toxic chemical spraying in neighborhoods as non-essential and hazardous. Widespread exposure to lawn pesticides, which are immune system and respiratory toxicants, can elevate serious risk factors associated with COVID-19 (coronavirus). TruGreen uses the weed killer glyphosate (Roundup), which is identified by IARC of the World Health Organization as probably carcinogenic. It uses a chlorophenoxy (Tri-Power) another weed killer whose label warns of “irreversible eye damage” and “allergic reactions.” Another hazardous pesticide identified in the lawsuit is triclorfon (Dylox), a neurotoxic organophosate insecticide.” Time to stop this insanity.

MORE GARDENING AND RELATED HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

DR. FOX, The real insanity is nitwits like you folks with your bull crap environmental wokeness. Don’t cut the grass for a month? A breeding environment for mosquitoes and ticks. I’ve been a gardener for decades. I use pesticides very judiciously. I also cut my grass and have a plethora of fauna to include rabbits foxes groundhogs squirrels etc etc. I also fish and hunt and have contributed more money toward preservation with license fees and donations they any 10 “environmentalists”. Give it break.

John Tesauro (address withheld)

DEAR J.T., I understand the new term “wokeness” and its derogatory implications as distinct from being informed and aware. I wish to inform you about some aspects of lawn mowing which kills beneficial animals such as toads, frogs and snakes, and of pesticides that kill insectivorous animals who consume pesticide-poisoned prey, or starve to death when there are no insects to feed upon.

The “No Mow” movement is to bring back pollinators and to encourage people to re-wild their lawns. There are plants that repel ticks and other insects which gardeners should put in place of their lawns and re-wilding their property. These include Lavender, Garlic, Rosemary and Mint. For details visit https://buglord.com/plants-that-repel-ticks/ Cedar oil in cedar-chip mulch may also help repel ticks and mosquitoes.

Keeping deer away from one’s property will help prevent tick infestation as does controlled burning of vegetation in the Fall especially in public places, which many State park authorities now practice rather than spraying insecticides.

Various insects including ticks have a variety of natural predators including ants, spiders, frogs, toads and birds, also opossums, shrews and other rodents, squirrels and chipmunks, domestic chickens and guinea fowl and wild turkeys. Frogs, toads, various bird species and bats consume mosquitoes as well as other insects. The widespread use of insecticides and, rodenticides has decimated these various insectivorous and omnivorous creatures, aquatic and terrestrial, thus contributing to the proliferation of ticks, mosquitoes and other insects that can transmit diseases to humans and other animals. (Almost gone are the Oxpecker and similar birds that would ride the backs of free-ranging cattle and eat ticks and biting flies because of the use of pour-on insecticides and dips by livestock keepers world-wide).

According to the University of Maine ( https://extension.umaine.edu/ticks/management/biological-control) “The use of pathogenic fungi is perhaps the most promising biological control for ticks. These fungi penetrate the tick’s cuticle, or outer covering, move into the body, and ultimately kill both nymphal and adult stages of the tick. Commercial products containing these fungi are available for both granular and spray applications. The fungus Metarhizium anisopliae is registered in Maine for tick control.” I think we find common ground in caring for wildlife that you mention coming to your property–rabbits, foxes, groundhogs etc but I do not need to hunt of fish because I am a vegetarian and with a human population of over 7 billion, the less animals we consume the better it is for the planet’s biodiversity and ecological viability.

Herbicides Cost Lives and More From Animal Doctor Column July 19, 2020

Before being purchased by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, Monsanto Corp. demanded that I retract my comments about the many health and environmental risks of their herbicide Roundup, which I refused to do, and they sent a letter discrediting my science-based concerns to all newspapers that published my article. Now, in one of the largest civil settlements in U.S. history, Bayer has agreed to allocate close to $10 billion to resolve around 125,000 filed and unfiled cases claiming its glyphosate-based weed-killer Roundup causes cancer. The deal will still allow Bayer to sell Roundup without adding any warnings, The New York Times reported. It comes after three juries in early, high-profile trials awarded more than $2.4 billion to plaintiffs who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after long-term Roundup use.

This herbicide, still widely used in agriculture and around private property by homeowners and public places by municipalities is often combined with the herbicide 2,4-D, which is also used separately to kill “weeds” invading lawns. 2,4-D is an endocrine disruptor that can damage thyroid gland function and is a potential carcinogen. A 2004 study by Purdue University scientists showed that Scottish terriers exposed to lawns treated with herbicides such as 2,4-D had greater risk of bladder cancer than other terriers. A 1991 National Cancer Institute study concluded that dogs exposed to just four lawn treatments a year significantly increased their risk of malignant lymphoma. (For details visit ewg.org/research/24D/pets-wildlife-24D.)

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared 2,4-D a possible human carcinogen, based on evidence that it damages human cells and, in a number of studies, caused cancer in laboratory animals. More conclusive is the proof that 2,4-D falls into a class of compounds called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, compounds that mimic or inhibit the body’s hormones. Laboratory studies suggest that 2,4-D can impede the normal action of estrogen, androgen and most conclusively, thyroid hormones. Dozens of epidemiological, animal and laboratory studies have shown a link between 2,4-D and thyroid disorders. (nrdc.org/stories/24-d-most-dangerous-pesticide-youve-never-heard).

Homeowners, community leaders, municipal authorities, and state and federal agencies involved in regulating the use of these and other chemicals in agriculture need to stop this insanity. Organic farmers are leading the way, along with books for homeowners like Doug Tallamy’s “Nature’s Best Hope,” to get rid of their perfect lawns and landscape with indigenous plants for the benefit of insects, birds, other wildlife – and our own health as well as our animal companions.

DEAR DR. FOX: Is there a supplement that is safe to give my two dogs in order to stop yellowing of my grass when they urinate? I looked into gypsum for the lawn, but it seems to do more harm to the grass than good. They currently eat a little kibble mixed with your dog food twice a day and added vegetables (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots) and fruits (blueberries or apples) once a day. – T.G., Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR T.G.: I am frequently asked this question and my response has usually ruffled some feathers. There are fraudsters out there selling various products to give to dogs with the claim that their urine will be changed so the lawn grass will not be harmed. These products are not FDA-approved and need not be if they are marketed not as drugs but as food supplements.

Any compound that changes the acidity/alkalinity of a dog’s urine is altering complex biochemical processes and could cause harm, including disrupting the normal bacterial flora in the urinary tract that prevents cystitis and infections.

The three solutions that I offer are: 1. Adding a little milk or low- or zero-salt chicken bouillon (you can make your own) to your dogs’ drinking water so they drink more and have less concentrated urine. 2. Soak the grass sod where your dogs have urinated with a liberal dousing of water at the end of the day to dilute their urine. 3. Put down sand and a layer of pea-gravel in one area where the dogs can evacuate in your yard, and let the rest return to the wild by seeding various indigenous perennial grasses, flowers and shrubs.

FOR DOGS’ SAKE, GET RID OF THE LAWNS! From Animal Doctor Column Aug 1st 2016

Agriculture should not take all the blame for chemical fertilizers and pesticides harming water quality. What MUST be addressed in suburbia is the lawns, soaked in chemicals by homeowners and lawn “treatment” companies that “fertilize” and kill “weeds” with various chemicals that the rains, lawn sprinklers and irrigation systems flush into ground and surface waters, which we eventually drink or that evaporate into the clouds and come back down in the rain. From my perspective as a veterinarian and from my early memories that make me mourn the loss of night bugs and wildflowers along the highways and byways, I can only shake my head in disbelief. The golden springs of flowering dandelions, so nutritious, packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes and with multiple phytochemicals with properties that can cure certain cancers and improve liver and kidney function, if not the workings of our brains, is a call to arms rather than to reverence and celebration. They are, along with other “invasive” herbs and wildflowers, rooted out or sprayed with herbicides that cause or aggravate the very maladies that the dandelions’ leaves and roots, and essences of other wild plants, can cure!

What more to say except that children play on these lawns and sprayed park land, sidewalks and playing fields, where susceptible dogs like the Scottish terrier are likely to develop cancer of the bladder and others, cancer of the lymphatic system.

Some may wonder where the bees and butterflies have gone. Others will not care or remember. Where I live in suburban Minnesota, few homeowners have turned their lawns into rain gardens, milkweed havens and flowering meadows. Every evening we hear the sound of lawn mowers and weed whackers before the smoky stench of outdoor barbecues, converting animal flesh into tasty carcinogens, rises to pollute the gloaming. Then the street and yard lights come on to obliterate the stars, and in a twinkling of recall, I see no more fireflies in the gloom.

But beyond a sense of pending doom, I see a glimmer of hope in the scintillating semaphore of vibrant colors from the wings of the birds and butterflies among our weeds and falling linden trees that speak the universal language of the heart. This war on “weeds” (like other wars triggered by generally unfounded fears, an adversarial and arrogant state of mind and distorted perception) must end, along with our collective ignorance and indifference to all that lives and gives.

POISONOUS ALGAE IN LAKES AND PONDS HEALTH ALERT

Some strains of algae bloom in the billions in lakes and ponds as our warm seasons extend with climate change and unrelenting phosphate and nitrate run- off from agriculture, lawns and gardens feeds them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been monitoring this issue in several states over the past 3 years and reports at least 389 people and 413 animals, including dogs, cats, cattle and horses have become sickened and 369 animals died, mainly waterfowl. (for details visit.jav.ma/habs).

This is very serious and animals who have been in standing water covered in blue-green algae must be hosed down immediately and never allowed to drink from such waters. It is but one of the issues that not addressing climate change is going to see worsen, along with agriculture and private land owners reducing the use of chemical fertilizers.

I have an added concern that people allow their dogs into lakes and ponds, duck hunters in particular, with their dogs wearing anti-flea and tick collars or have spot-on applications on their backs because these chemicals are highly toxic to the life in fresh waters. This concern is being raised in veterinary circles in the U.K. now that these anti-flea and tick insecticides fipronil and imidacloprid given to dogs have been found contaminating and reducing the quality of life in every English river tested. No dog being treated with these insecticides should be allowed into any fresh water environment and probably should not be bathed indoors (where the insecticide-contaminated drain water finishes up in our rivers)’ and not outdoors because the insecticides are going to enter the environment. So best to never use year-round in most states and find safer alternatives that are readily available as posted on my website www.drfoxonehealth.com in the article ‘Preventing Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes.’. Better protection of the health of aquatic ecosystems is a One Health priority in every country.

CYANOBACTERIA KILLING BALD EAGLES AND POTENTIAL RISK TO HUMAN HEALTH

A new species of toxic blue-green algae has been identified that causes neurologic disease ( vacuolar myelopathy) and has been killing bald eagles, bevers, turtles and other animals for several years in the southeastern U.S. ( Hunting the eagle killer: A cyanobacterial neurotoxin causes vacuolar myelinopathy .Steffen Breinlingerl et al, Science 26 Mar 2021:Vol. 371, Issue 6536). The algae grow on the leaves of invasive Hydrilla plants in human-made lakes when bromide is present.

According to a review on the major sources of bromide in aquatic ecosystems, current anthropogenic sources of bromide include energy extraction and utilization, coal-fired power plants, water treatment, flame retardants, pre-planting and post-harvest biocides, agricultural herbicides, municipal waste incinerators, landfill leachate, road deicers, and pharmaceuticals.

( http://cappslab.ecology.uga.edu/additional-info/bromide-in-surface-water). Fish become diseased by the algae as well as coots and other animals consuming vegetation contaminated with the neurotoxin, and they, in turn, poison eagles and other animals who consume them. As yet there is no evidence of people being poisoned by eating contaminated fish but caution is called for. Better prevention of bromide contamination is also called for.

Note: The author is a veterinarian who promotes One Health in recognition of the connectedness of human, environmental, animal and plant health from which, as a culture, we are pathogenically disconnected, the global COVID-19 pandemic being one signal consequence.