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Nancy Wiersma: Everyday yard work and gardening can be dangerous

Published 10:18am Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We never stop to think about how dangerous a bit of gardening can be.
Everyday things such as fertilizing the lawn or garden, trimming a tree, shrubs, perennials or hedges.

Mowing and raking, climbing a ladder to hang or clean out a birdhouse.

Dangers that may involve injuries to our eyes, hearing and even our respiratory systems.
Each year there are 400,000 people injured, and they seek treatment in the emergency room for lawn and garden injuries sustained while gardening.

In 2004, 12,000 gardeners sought out the ER for injuries they brought upon themselves by a simple act, raking.

And what about our lawn mowers? They are one of the most dangerous of all.
They have accounted for 221,000 trips to the doctor’s office, emergency rooms and clinics.

Let’s talk about our ladders for a minute, and our misuse, which has led to 547,000 injuries!

How many times have we used a ladder on soft or uneven ground?

And climbed or stepped beyond the second step from the top?

It PLAINLY reads Danger.

Do not stand at or above this level. You can lose your balance.

And we have to watch out for those power lines that are ever so close to us, only overhead.

When using a rototiller or trimming the hedge or even when you’re doing a little deadheading, more than 90 percent of sustained eye injuries were caused by flying debris that could have been prevented by using safety glasses or goggles (many look like those expensive sunglasses, have UV protection and impact-resistant lenses).
What about our hearing?

If you have to shout to be heard three feet away, your hearing may be at risk. Wear earplugs that are designed to reduce loud noises caused by chainsaws and leaf blowers
How about your lungs and respiratory system? Fumes and vapors from insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. Did you know if you can smell or taste them, you are ingesting them and they are being taken into your mouth and lungs.

You should use a mask or some sort of protective respiratory gear, and always wear gloves, long sleeves and long pants.

If you are going to use any of the “cides” above, cover as much of your body as possible. (I don’t use any of the “cides” anymore. If I find a few bugs, I pick them by hand and throw them into a bucket of soapy water. And it seems I have a much healthier and a more active garden now I since I no longer use any of the “cides,” i.e. earthworms, butterflies, bees, birds, beneficial insects and, yes, one (?) garter snake.

Many of these garden-related injuries we bring upon ourselves when we rush and don’t use common sense and by not following the rules.
Or, how about this grand idea or thought: IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME!
P.S. I will not even touch upon the chainsaw or pitchfork statistics, as it makes my stomach burn just thinking about this one, and I have a strong constitution. It takes a lot to make me queasy. But I just don’t want to get into any details or picture any of these types of accidents in my head.
All I can hope to say is this – just be careful out there, and protect yourself.

Did you know?

• More than 70 Canadian cities have passed legislation that limits or bans cosmetic, or non-essential, pesticide use. The lawn-products industry has launched a public relations campaign to insure that such a ban is not implemented in the United States?

• We use 800 million gallons of gas a year just in our lawn mowers alone.

• We in the U.S. apply 90 million pounds of pesticides to our lawns yearly.

• Our at home herbicide use has increased, 91 percent from 1982 to 2001.

• No wonder we have so much cancer. Health problems that have been linked to lawn chemicals and their use include non-Hodgkins lymphoma, reproductive ill effects, even our pets are not exempt, such as canine bladder cancer.

• The primary pollutant in Minnesota’s surface waters is phosphorous from lawn fertilizers.

Source: Organic Gardening magazine

There is no sight more terrible than ignorance in action.
— Goethe

Nancy Wiersma of Dowagiac writes a weekly column.

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