not have had the family pet in mind when he uttered, "Thy food shall be thy remedy," but his words
apply to our furry
friends just the same. Veterinarian, Dr. Robert Goldstein echoes this
exact sentiment when he says, "Show me a dog or cat with fleas
and I'll show you an animal on the wrong diet."1
Fleas and ticks are big business for the chemical/pesticide industry,
selling in excess of one billion dollars annually. Dr. Goldstein fears
warfare being waged against these and other pests is doing far greater harm
to our own health…"1
Modern medicine has diligently followed Pasteur's germ theory in its
attempts to eradicate disease, while his contemporary, Bernard Béchamp,
proposed the real problem — a weakened immune system that provides fertile
ground in which a disease state can flourish. Germs are ever present, everywhere,
but not everyone exposed gets sick. Only those individuals with compromised
immune systems are likely to catch a cold, get the flu, or even become the
major attractant for biting insects at a picnic. The same holds true for animals.
In a household of multiple pets it may be an older or weaker animal that is
frequently besieged by fleas or ticks.1,2
Dr. Goldstein's paradigm of flea control is to strengthen the immune
system of the affected animal, rather than using an arsenal of chemicals against
the troublesome pests. Such pesticides are highly toxic and further weaken
the overall health of the afflicted pet. A chronic flea infestation can serve
as an early warning signal of immune deficiency and a need to reestablish balance.
A lack of B vitamins in animals and humans can result in a weakened immune
system, weakened nervous system, and weakened glandular systems.1
Parasites can even detect a particular odor in health-compromised animals,
or humans, which accounts for why some individuals are plagued by mosquitoes,
and why some pets are targeted by fleas. The pesticide industry has grown uncontrollably
in recent decades including products for flea and tick control.
Pesticides are neurotoxins that destroy the target pest's nervous system,
promoting an early death. Nerve gases were originally developed during WWII
to use against the enemy. At the conclusion of the war chemical companies were
left with stockpiles of these toxins, and peacetime uses were sought. With
government assistance the toxic chemicals were reformulated into lower dose
products to be used in the ongoing war against insects and weeds. Agricultural
applications, commercial uses, and residential demands acted as fertilizer
for the growing pesticide industry.
Little or no thought was given to health
and environmental consequences, and thousands of products were introduced before
the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was instated.
Two-thirds of flea pesticides are neurotoxic, some are capable of reproductive
damage in lab tests, and the EPA lists approximately one-half as carcinogenic.
All raise environmental concerns. Besides rivers and estuaries, flea products
pose an unwarranted risk to children, veterinary staff, and the pets that are
being dipped, sprayed, powdered, and collared.3
Toxins at lower doses may not kill humans or pets with the initial exposure,
or even after several exposures. Because it takes longer for the negative effects
to accumulate and disable the immune system, the industry continues to mislead
the public and the government regulatory agencies by insisting there is no
scientific proof showing cause and effect. Yet, when industry representatives
have been asked by environmental and health advocates to conduct new studies
on the relationship of pesticides to cancer, respiratory, and neurological
disorders, they tersely reply there is no need for such studies. And so, the
world goes round and round. The chemical industry claims no scientific studies
demonstrate a conclusive relationship of exposure to disease, and then refuse
to initiate new studies on the basis they are not needed, even though there
are many small studies that indicate otherwise.
Veterinary Staff Exposure
Veterinarians, their assistants, and pet handlers are frequently exposed to
toxic chemicals in flea control products. The carbaryl class of chemicals
is associated with increased frequencies of diarrhea, coughing, breathing
problems and congestion. The organophosphate class of chemicals can produce
symptoms of headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and dermatitis.3
As the country with the most expensive health care in the world, it is sad
to acknowledge that we have not been winning the war on cancer, degenerative
disorders, bacterial and viral diseases. We have also been losing the war
against natural pests. Agricultural pests destroy a greater percentage of
crops now than they did fifty years ago. Our efforts to eradicate insects
and weeds have served to produce more virulent species of insects and weeds
while poisoning the planet. Head lice are becoming immune to even the most
toxic chemicals we dare to apply to the heads of our children.4
need to change our "war" strategy before we poison ourselves beyond
the point of salvation.
Fleas and lice now have a longer life cycle than they did fifty years ago.
They breed more easily and even survive bouts of cold weather. It has become
necessary to use stronger poisons in higher doses to eradicate these super
pests.1 Survival of the fittest, short life span, and rapid replication (multiple
generations every year) have created super bugs. Humans have a longer life
span, do not reproduce as quickly, and have not yet developed genetic resistance
to chemical poisons. We are being bombarded with increasing numbers of chemicals,
the synergy of which multiplies their toxicity. This important health risk
is rarely, if ever, part of any testing protocol.
Costly and Ineffective
Millions of dollars spent on toxic flea control have not bought consumer satisfaction,
or healthy pest-free pets. Flea collars emit continuous, undetected vapors
into the home, car, and around the pet. The toxic vapors may have little
effect on fleas farthest from the collar, and little or no effect on flea
eggs. The vapors are highly toxic to the animal's skin, eyes, nose,
lungs, blood, heart, liver, and kidneys.1,3 Nor, are they good for children
who hug, handle, pet, or otherwise enjoy the pleasure of being in close proximity
to their furry friends. Foggers release a great deal of toxic chemicals into
the air which settle on carpets, furniture, draperies, and more, while remaining
ineffective against flea larvae and eggs.3
In order to rebalance an animal's compromised immune system it is necessary
to utilize the right vitamins and minerals that protect against fleas and ticks.
The B vitamins, particularly B-1 (thiamine) and B-6 (pyridoxine), are natural
flea and tick repellents. Brewer's yeast and rice bran contain high
levels of all B vitamins.1,3
Optimum bone and skin health require calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous,
and zinc. Garlic helps to cleanse, detoxify, and strengthen the immune system,
while giving the blood a taste that is offensive to pests. Garlic is also effective
as a remedy for internal parasites.1
Besides boosting the pet's immune system, there are several procedures
that help reduce a flea infestation while posing no threat to the animals,
humans, or environment. The cat flea is responsible for most fleabites to cats,
dogs, and humans. It goes through four stages of development — eggs,
larva, pupa, and adult. All four stages of development can be present at any
time. Vacuuming, washing and grooming are safe environmental approaches to
Frequent vacuuming of floors, carpets, furniture, crevices, and cracks in the
area where pets sleep and spend time is advised along with weekly washing of
pet bedding. During heavy infestation daily vacuuming may be necessary. Proper
bag disposal is essential to prevent fleas from escaping. The vacuum bag can
be sealed and thrown out or burned. Vacuuming up one tablespoon of cornstarch
will ensure the fleas' demise, and then the bag should be disposed of
immediately. Towels and easily washed blankets make good bed covers. Regular
use of flea combs catch fleas in the tightly spaced tines. Caught fleas should
be flicked into a container of soapy water where they will drown.3
Adding a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to an herbal shampoo will help to repel
fleas and assist in healing the pet's flea-bitten skin, as well. Mix
a teaspoon of Tea Tree Oil in a cup of water and spray the mixture on the animal's
fur. This is recommended for pets that disdain baths, which includes most cats.
It is also practical for in-between baths.5
Vacuuming, bathing, and using nutritional methods of flea control will do much
to protect children who are usually in closest contact with the family pet.
Children breathe in vapors, absorb toxins through their skin, and seldom
wash their hands after playing with pets. Children are at greater risk for
neurological poisoning due to their small size and immature immune systems.
For their size, children breathe more air, drink more water, and eat more
food than adults, increasing their intake of pesticides.
More information on safe flea control is available from the following organizations:
• New York Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NYCAP) 518-426-8246
• Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) 541-344-5044
• National Coalition Against Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP) 202-543-5450
• Washington Toxic Coalition (WTC) 206-632-1545
Dr. Robert and Susan Goldstein edit a newsletter, offer safe flea control products,
and maintain a web site at www.earthanimal.com. Inquiries can be made
New Organic Labeling
What, you may be asking, do fleas and organic labeling have in common? Both
are relevant to this month's topics of pet care, spring and gardening,
but the more important connection deals with health risks from exposure to
toxic chemicals in pet care products and the food supply.
Everyone is at least vaguely familiar with the concept of "organic" food,
although its meaning may have several interpretations. I vividly recall some
years ago encountering retired neighbors at the local supermarket. We were
standing in the produce aisle next to the newly installed "organic" section
of fruits and vegetables. I inquired what they thought about the supermarket
offering organic produce. The wife responded, "Oh, you mean that stuff
with bugs on it," which left me temporarily speechless.
There is, however, a growing consumer demand for healthier food. This has fueled
a steady 20% increase in demand for organic foods over the past several years.
As profits rose the big agricultural conglomerates wanted a share of the organic
Corporate giants have little understanding of the concept behind organics and
what it means to nourish the soil, tread lightly on the planet, treat farm
animals humanely, use whole foods to restore and maintain health. The only "green" they
are interested in harvesting is the color of money.
The organic food concept began in earnest during the 1960s with the back-to-the-land
movement popularized in Mother Earth magazine and before that, Rodale's
Organic Gardening publication. Organic crops are raised without synthetic fertilizer
and toxic pesticides. They are generally grown for a local market, not picked
prematurely, waxed, dyed, or shipped long distances. There were variations
in the organic practices around the country, though most organic growers adhered
to basic guidelines drafted by regional certifiers.
In the early 1990s the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was given the
task of developing a national standard to be used by all farmers and food processors
that wished to use the organic label on their products. This was a cooperative
venture between the NOSB, farmers, business, and consumers.
The agri-chemical industry, consisting of factory farms, food conglomerates,
and the pesticide/chemical fertilizer industry represent a powerful economic
force that exerts enormous influence at the highest levels of government. With
the organic market growing, profits rising, and an opportunity to turn the
new labeling requirements to their benefit, the industry wasted no time in
helping the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) draw up guidelines that were
the antithesis of what "organic" is all about.
Word got out that the USDA was going to include in the new organic labeling
such unacceptable practices as toxic sludge fertilizer, irradiation, genetic
engineering, confined factory farm practices, hormone and antibiotic drugs,
high fees for participating growers and excessive fines for violators.
The USDA scheduled a hearing on the proposed organic labeling for March 1998,
but was bombarded with more than 400,000 letters, faxes, emails, and phone
calls, forcing them to extend the hearing date to May. This allowed the real
organic community a little more time to prepare a strong and unified response
to the USDA's proposal that favored the special interests of agri-business.
Many adjustments were made before a final set of standards was deemed acceptable.
The new national standard for food bearing the "organic" label
includes the following:
• land used for organic crops must be free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizer,
and sewage sludge for at least three years
• no irradiation
• no genetically engineered organisms (GMOs)
• no antibiotics or growth hormones in organic meat
• processed foods must be 95% organic by weight
• "made with" organic ingredients must be a minimum of 70% organic6
That's the good news. The bad news is, now that government is involved,
there is a ton of paperwork that threatens to undermine the small organic grower.
A paper trail from seedling to harvest must accompany every variety of fruit
and vegetable grown. Huge commercial farms usually have more office staff to
handle paper work, and often grow fewer varieties of crops. On a small two
to five-acre farm, as many as 30 or more varieties may be planted.
During the growing season the farmer works long hours with never enough help,
and no time for filling out government forms for each different set of plants
grown. If they neglect to cross a "t", dot an "i",
miss a deadline, or in any way err on the required paperwork they could face
fines as high as $10,000 p/day for inappropriately using the "organic" label
even though their crops may be completely organic. Raising chemically-free
wholesome food now comes second to filling out paper work.
The small farmer earning between $25,000 and $60,000 a year will not be able
to survive daily fines for failure to keep up with the paperwork. Whereas large
corporations who blatantly defy the new "organic" label requirements
can easily cover the cost of the fines. They spend more than that on advertising
Is the government's new organic certification process protecting small
organic growers? Is it protecting the food supply? Is it guaranteeing that
consumers get what they are paying for? Is it another layer of bureaucracy
protecting big business?
The community of organic growers is in a quandary regarding how to survive
this new blow to their livelihood. A vast majority of small growers will forsake
the certification requirements rather than risk losing the farm to possible
fines. Most will continue raising crops using the same high standards to produce
nutritious pesticide-free food, but will no longer be able to use the "organic" label
on their produce.
Small growers are seeking ways to continue being good stewards of the land
while providing wholesome food. New ideas are emerging. In New York's
Hudson Valley where organic farming has really taken off, one local grower
has founded an alternative program, Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), www.naturallygrown.org,
that is gaining support from growers in Virginia, Connecticut, Alaska, Texas,
Cornell University, and the Hudson Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club.7
"The biggest differences between CNG's and the USDA's regulations," according
to founder, Ron Khosla, are that "CNG tests for pesticide residue in plant
tissue and soil which is not part of the national organic standards program — and
that CNG actually performs its own inspections — creating a greater opportunity
for rule-bending evidence to fall by the wayside."7 Khosla believes this
new designation provides better protection for the consumer since both food and
soil will be tested for pesticide residue, whereas the government's plan
merely relies on a grower's signature affirming that organic regulations
have been adhered to, which essentially proves nothing.
Blatant dishonesty from the tobacco industry, Enron, World Com, and others
has left the American consumer suspicious of how well our regulatory agencies
are able to protect public interests. Why should we expect anything different
from the agri-chemical conglomerates that have now muscled their way into the
profitable organics market?
The new national standard for certified organic labeling will not guarantee
anything. It is still a case of buyer beware. Purchasing from local farms that
continue to use organic methods even though they may no longer be able to legally
use the organic label may still be the best way to get wholesome food. In the
August 2002 issue of Total Wellness, Sherry Rogers, MD, recommends consumers
who are not able to acquire organic staples in their community can order whole
grains, beans, seeds, flours, nuts and more from Natural Lifestyle 1-800-752-2775.8
Eat well to be well.
1. Goldstein, R, DVM, Flea-Free Forever, Phillips Pub. Inc., MD.
2. Hume, E, Béchamp or Pasteur?, Custodian Pub. Inc., CA, 1976.
3. Jrnl. of Pesticide Reform, Vol.17, No.3, Fall 1997.
4. Williams, RM, "Head Lice…" TLfDP, #201, Apr 2000.
5. Healthy Cell News, ALV Pub. Inc., AZ, June 1999.
6. "USDA Organics," Sierra Mgz., Nov/Dec 2002.
7. Piperato, S., Chronogram Mgz., NY, Nov 2002.
8. Rogers, S, MD, Total Wellness, NY, Aug 2002.