Organophosphates in Your Garage?

Organophosphates in Your Garage?

Do you have organophosphates in your garage? Many Michiganders would give a puzzled stare if posed with this question, but everybody in the Great Lakes state should know about organophosphates and the dangers they cause.

Despite the name, organophosphates are far from what we think of as organic. They are a group of pesticides made from the reaction of alcohols and phosphoric acid, marketed under such names as fonofos, methyl parathion, diazinon, disulfoton, Dursban (chlorpyrifos), azinphos-methyl, and malathion. Organophosphates were first used in WWII as lethal nerve gases and respiratory poisons. Unfortunately, organophosphates are still in use today.

When we apply these chemicals to our lawn or gardens we expose ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. Our actions can have even farther reaching effects because the chemicals don’t stay put. They seep into the groundwater and are washed into storm drains that lead to local lakes and rivers.

The EPA has taken steps to reduce the use of organophosphates by prohibiting the sale of Dursban (the most commonly used household pesticide) in 2001 and diazinon (the pesticide found most often in air, rain and drinking water) in 2004. But this does not prevent people from still using them today.

There are alternatives to organophosphates, such as planting pest-resistant plants and using Organocide, an organic spray oil made from sesame and fish oils (

If you have any hazardous materials or chemicals that you don’t need anymore, don’t dispose of them in any way!! i.e. throwing out, pouring down the drain or sewer. Each of the Grosse Pointes, like most communities in Michigan, has hazardous household waste drop-off days, usually in the spring. Look for dates in our next issue or check your city’s newsletter.

If you are not sure if you have any organophosphates, dig through that garage or shed and read the labels of any chemicals and pesticides you have. Look for the words “organophosphate” or any of the chemical names mentioned above.

If you find any organophosphates, follow the instructions on the label, be sure to wear a mask and gloves, and seal it in a zip seal bag or lidded container until the next drop-off day. Ask your lawn care company what chemicals they are using, and request that they use organic means of pest control. (Refer to Hiring Hints).

Runoff from pesticides is the number one polluting agent in the Great Lakes and Lake Saint Clair. Please do your part to keep the water we drink, the fish we eat, and the source of much of our summer fun cleaner, healthier, and safer.

Go to Grandpa’s Pesticides to learn more about organophosphate pesticides and non-toxic alternatives.

Lindsay, a high school student at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, is a guest writer to Health and Environment Connection.

-Lindsay Brownell
Winter 2005

Click Organophosphates in your Garage to download a printable pdf version of this article.

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