I first saw this on the GreenHarvest website and did that brand trust thing - it said it was organic and harmless, I trust Greenharrvest, I was in a hurry, and I was trying to get something to stop my fruitflies - so I bought some. I THEN (stupid!) checked the material safety data sheet (MSDS) on the web and now have a container of very nasty stuff that I won't use sitting in my shed. I suppose I send it to landfill and hope it doesn't seep through the water table and kill our streams..
So, I've attached the material safety data sheets below (always check this for any chemical you consider using) - for Success/ spinosad and also propylene glycol which is the solvent.
Some key terms:
LD50 stands for Lethal Dose 50%. It is the dose that you need to feed a lab animal in mg of active ingredient per kg of body mass in order for half of the animals that you poison to actually die.
NB I've changed the mg to grams here to make it more understandable - there's about 5g in a teaspoon, 25g in a tablespoon.
The oral LD50 for spinosad is 3.5 g per kg of rat - so if a 3kg rat ate 2 teaspoons of spinosad it would have a 50:50 chance of dying. The skin absorption LD50 is only 2g/ kg (unusual - usually oral kills you more). Don't get it on your skin!
Note that active ingredient is only 2.5% of Success. The rest is propylene glycol which has an LD50 oral of 20 g / kg for rats.
So a 3kg rat might need to drink about (assuming it's about the same weight per volume as water cos i don't know) 55 ml of the stuff you buy in a bottle if it wants to play 50:50 with death.
EcoToxicology - check out what collateral damage it does to bees, birds, fish and frogs. Spinosad kills bees, and will kill birds if they cop a dose as well. It does't say what happens if it gets into waterways.
Mutagenicity: will it mutate genes?
Teratology: will it cause birth defects?
Note that all 'safe levels' of these is based on exposure to the quantity of active ingredient that you would likely find in a retail bottle - it doesn't consider repeated exposures, or industrial exposure. So Confidor tester size sample packs don't have to be marked as an S6 poison because if you swallowed the whole thing it would be unlikely to kill you....(but if you stir it with your hand every week for a year...?)
Check out the MSDS on Piperonyl butoxide (common ingredient in fly spray and aeroguard) - LD50 oral is 6.15 g / kg for rats, and the LD50 dermal for rabbits is 0.2 g / kg!!! No-one's allowed to put that stuff on my kids! Maisie's about 20kg - i.e. 4g, or less than one teaspoon of the stuff would probably/ might kill her - but it's safe for houshold use!? And if you don't die, what does it do to you? ...."no relevant information found"
The other very important thing to consider is how do these things actually kill insects? The organic remedies that are recommended for gardens usually do these things:
* confuse the insects
* hide the smell or taste of the plant
* stop the insects from physically being able to attack the plant
* kill the insect
Insects have a weird breathing system - they breathe through portholes in their sides called spiracles. Basically air gets into the holes and exchanges oxygen directly with their 'blood' - just like happens in our specially designed structures called lungs. The reason that oils and detergents used in the garden kill insects is because these holes become blocked to air - so the insects suffocate.
Insectides do not kill through physical means - they get into the insect and shut down its essential systems. Some attack mitochondria. Some are like hormones that target reproductive systems. Most basically interfere with insect nerve cells.
Organochlorines like DDT open up all the sodium gradients across nerve membranes - basically stopping the nerves from working.
Organophosphates bind to autonomic (eg respiration, circulation - all the non-voluntary body functions) nerve cells' membranes and stop them working - this is a permanent and cumulative effect. Once the cells can no longer transport materials across the cell membrane because all the receptors are clogged, they stop working. Meanwhile they do the best they can with what they have left that still works..
Carbamates and Pyrethroids like pyrethrin (which is 'organically derived' from sweet harmless daisy flowers) also interfere with active transport over nerve cell membranes. All permanent, all cumulative. How many nerve cell receptors do you have? How many is that caterpillar worth? Would you like to eat that with your dinner on sprayed, inadequately with-held, inadequately washed produce? (a lot of these are quite persistent - all vegies will have traces, they don't live long enough not to if sprayed). Also, if you want to get these off, you must wash your vegies like dishes - in warm detergent water! The chemicals are oil soluble - cold water will not do it (bit like rain really).
Neonicotinoids mess with your nerves too. I think Confidor is one of these. Basically a watered down nerve poison like the now banned nicotine based insecticides. The LD50 of nicotine is 50 mg/kg for rats and 3 mg/kg for mice. 40–60 mg (0.5-1.0 mg/kg) can be a lethal dosage for adult humans.
There are also metal based insecticides like lead, aresenic, copper - mostly banned now because they accumulate, don't degrade, and surprise surprise poison us too.
OK, so insect and human nerve systems are different right? No, not particularly... we're just bigger. So it takes longer, cumulative exposure to make us really sick. But everytime we are exposed, our bodies stop working like they are meant to just a little bit. That's why you often see long term termite treatment guys with the shakes. What's it doing to their respiratory, circulation or immune systems?
It takes lots of money to do trials (and of course the companies that make these chemcials don't want to get them banned) and it's impossible to use humans as clinical trial subjects - so you don't really know whether these things cause cancer, birth defects, immune deficiency etc until about 20 years later - when studies can be done on people who did it to themselves. That's why the MSDS says "no relevant information". It doesn't mean it's because there is nothing to know - there is no approved study. For some reason they don't have to talk about what the chemicals do to the lab animals they test them on - only whether they die or not. Industry pressure I guess.
OK, download finished....phew! Also, don't think that herbicides and plant growth promoting agents (aka carcinogens?) are any different - and keep in mind you need to know about the 97% non-active ingredient that you're spraying around as well.
OK - so I just wanted to share with you what I know. Because I learnt about it in my science degree, but it's good for all gardeners to know this stuff. It's all on the internet, you can find it.
** look up the MSDS (note that neem doesn't have one!! arg.. because it's a tree and no-one owns it....)
** just say no
** think of these things as biocides because that's what they are
** think about not just your little bit, but everyone's, all adding up, pouring into our air and our waterways
** enjoy your beautiful clean healthy produce and the amazing array of creatures in your garden, and pick the yucky bits off :)