Photo of Carson's/Shukla's house courtesy the Center for a Livable Future
Photo of Carson’s/Shukla’s house courtesy the Center for a Livable Future
Photo of Carson’s/Shukla’s house courtesy the Center for a Livable Future

In a cool example of serendipity, a Baltimore woman studying environmental and health policy discovered that her brick rowhouse near the Johns Hopkins campus had once housed one of her heroes — Rachel Carson, the environmentalist who wrote Silent Spring. And then, in a less-cool example of serendipity, she had to move out because the landlord fumigated the house without ventilating (or notifying the tenants) — exactly the sort of casual use of pesticides that Rachel Carson argued against.

In a great, thoughtful blog post entitled “What Would Rachel Carson Do?,” Arunima Shukla, the public policy student, describes how she returned home one day to find her house smelling… funny. In the trashcan, she discovered several indoor fumigating foggers (which read, incidentally, DO NOT USE MORE THAN ONE PER ROOM. Oops). Since the fumigation wasn’t done with proper ventilation, the whole house was full of fumes, causing dizziness and nausea that persisted for days. During final week. All the roommates ended up moving out. But instead of treating this as another bad landlord story, Shukla thought about how it relates to larger global health issues:

While it’s somewhat funny and ironic that the thoughtless use of pesticides compelled the residents of Rachel Carson’s old digs to vacate, this incident does highlight a dangerous tendency to ignore the dangerous public health implications of using pesticides and insecticides.  In many cases this comes down to a lack of knowledge and awareness about the risks of using these chemicals.  Although the household use of these substances can be often be problematic, the biggest problems arise from their large-scale use in agriculture.

Read the full story here — and check out Maryland’s new Pesticide Information and Reporting Workgroup for more information on local use of pesticides.