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Americans have long had a torrid love affair with garden chemicals.  In their quest to have the perfect yard or picture-perfect vegetables, consumers spend millions on lawn & garden chemicals. In a per acre study, American consumers outpace farms in their use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides tenfold.

Sevin dust and liquid are one of the most popular.  What is Sevin dust exactly?

Sevin is a pesticide.  Pesticides are neurotoxins, which in plain English means that they act on the nervous system of the insect.*  In insects they scramble nerve impulses causing neurological misfires and ending in paralysis and death.

History

Carbaryl (1-naphthyl methylcarbamate) is the chemical name for Sevin.  It’s been around for a long time, developed in the 1950’s by Union Carbide. It was touted by Carbide as a broad spectrum insecticide and pushed to American farmers, supposedly with little after effects or residue. As a kid in the 50’s I remember my Dad using Sevin dust on his tomatoes and in the garden. Today many people still use it on their gardens and especially on their vegetable plants to kill a wide variety of insects.

Over the years Sevin was proffered on third world countries as a savior for their insect ravaged crops.  Latin America was targeted first, then India.  What wasn’t realized at the time was that the drier conditions of western Asia naturally lead to crop failure in the first place and no miracle chemical, even Sevin, could save them.  Unknowingly Union Carbide’s Sevin insidiously poisoned and sickened the people of this region.

Those old enough probably remember the horrific Bhopal disaster in 1984 at the Union Carbide plant in India. The plant was built in 1980 and would not only produce carbaryl, but also two other key ingredients used  in the manufacture of Sevin, Methyl isocyanate,  a highly toxic and flammable liquid and phosgene, also highly toxic and carbon monoxide were produced at the Bhopal facility.  It was due to phasing out of the plant in 1984, cutbacks in maintenance and personnel that precipitated the Bhopal accident which killed 3,000 people outright, sickened thousands and led to the death of thousands more in the following weeks.  For years thereafter many died from illnesses related to the accident.  Dow now owns Union Carbide.

Why NOT To Use It?

Human exposure, be it from direct skin contact, inhalation or ingestion, leads to nausea, impaired cognitive development and tremors. Higher incidences of Parkinson’s disease have been reported by the Harvard School of Public health and the Mayo Clinic. The American Veterinary Medical Association shows related cancer rates in dogs exposed to lawn care chemicals. Other concerns: the compounds that make up Sevin are mutagens causing fetal abnormalities, reproductive dysfunctions in males and females, kidney and liver damage and behavioral problems in humans and animals. Carbaryl is an inhibitor of the cholinesterase enzyme, found in nervous tissue, red blood cells, and plasma.  It is also a carcinogen and has shown to induce DNA damage in humans, animals and plants. Breakdown of this chemical in the stomach, coupled with ingestion of sodium nitrate, a common food additive, forms nitrosocarbaryl, a more potent mutagenic compound.

Sevin is highly toxic to bees, aquatic invertebrates, and mollusks.  Groundwater contamination and subsequent runoff affects the entire food chain. It also increases the toxicity of another common yard chemical, 2-4-D or Scotts Weed & Feed or Miracle Grow.

For all those wondering if Sevin is safe:  no it is not. It is not a “natural” or “organic” garden chemical.  It is dangerous.  It is toxic. Eating food treated with Sevin dust or Sevin liquid will cause low levels of poisoning (see above) and in higher doses *will* cause damage and illness to the human body. Read the following post  on this site:  “If You Use Pesticides, READ THIS” for more information. If you’ve read the package warnings, it’s enough to scare anybody. Bottom line:  it’s poison not only for insects but for humans and animals.  DON’T USE this on your garden or in your yard.  

Better Choices

Plenty of home remedies exist but you have to accept one fact:  your garden will not be 100% perfect and yes, the bugs will eat some things.  Better to let them have a sacrificial plant or veggies that aren’t picture perfect.  I’d much rather eat something that has no chemicals on it than its opposite choice.

Old fashioned insect deterrents include good old soap and water to retard fungus, watering wisely as in don’t overwater which encourages disease,  keeping areas around plants clean of dead leaves (especially roses) and using certain natural ingredients such as hot peppers to put the bite on bugs.

Some of my favorites:  Save your bath water.  It’s got soap in it which is a natural insect deterrent and acts as a natural fungicide.  Even better if you’ve taken an Epsom salts bath:  the magnesium from the Epsom salts promotes growth in plants.  Use this to water your plants.  Add some cayenne pepper to the mix and pour it over your plants.  Bugs will get a big surprise when they bite the leaves.

Last summer I battled tomato horn worms  and other nasties quite successfully with self rising flour. The little monsters will chomp on a leaf, ingest some of the flour and soon after — BOOM!  The flour will rise in their moist guts and they’ll blow up, becoming instant compost!  Another plus was that I planted mums all around my garden.  I had very few instances of bugs chomping things.

Living in the country, I’ve got a problem with critters dumping my potted plants or digging up my newly planted ones.  Take some jalapeño peppers (or hot cherry peppers) and rub it around the rim of the pot.  Sprinkle some hot, hot cayenne or bird’s eye pepper around the base of the pot (or around the plant) in just inside the rim.  Mr. Skunk or Possum will be in for a big shock when he gets a snoot full of that stuff!  Trust me; your plants WON’T be dug up!

My long time plant hero, Jerry Baker, has been an inspiration to me for over 40 years. Visit his website to learn some of my favorite gardening tricks – and garden without Sevin, Round-Up, Weed-B-Gon or other poisons!

*They also act on the nervous system of humans.

Very Important Read below

If You Use Pesticides, READ THIS!

Editor’s Note:  This was originally published on my old site, Good Food 4 All.  Some of the articles I still have in my archives and will republish.  This one in particular bears repeating because gardening season is coming up again and many people think Sevin dust is harmless.