frequently asked questions

Is Eco-USA an organization?

No. It's just a website started by a guy in flyover country that got out of hand.

Ever thought about transforming eco-usa into a nonprofit organization?

Yes. Quite a bit, in fact. However, I've experienced two major impediments to that: ignorance and sloth. I don't know how to do it and it sounds like a lot of trouble. Particularly as there already seem to be enough environmental organizations and it would probably be best to support some of them rather than start a new group.

I believe I've been exposed to a chemical. Can you tell me if that exposure is going to cause me any adverse health effects?

No. This is a question best asked of a physician or epidemiologist, and I am neither. I can't predict whether you're allergic to pollen or bee stings, much less how you might be affected by long term exposure to a particular chemical. The problem is even tougher because we are all exposed to a bunch of different chemicals every day, just in going about our lives. Most folks aren't willing to be the subject of scientific experiments on the effects of chemicals, so scientists usually have to try to deduce the effects of chemicals by looking at people who are exposed in their workplaces, or by doing experiments on animals. You can imagine how effects differ from one species to another, and though scientists acknowledge that by building margins of safety into their estimates of risk, it's an imprecise business at best. Speaking strictly for myself, I try to avoid unnecessary contact with suspect substances, and regard with extreme caution the advice of those who claim to be able to diagnose health problems or the potential for health problems over the internet.

I believe I've been exposed to a chemical. Can you tell me what my legal rights are, and whether I can sue the person or company who exposed me?

No. Fortunately I'm not a lawyer, nor do I claim any expertise whatsoever in any legal field. I know it's potentially expensive, but if you can, I suggest you ask an attorney about your legal rights and options.

Can you help me with my homework?

Sorry. I don't have the time or inclination to do that. Not to sound like your dad, but you really ought to do your own homework.

Is it a good idea to use pressure treated lumber as a border on my garden?

I don't. Although the materials historically used to pressure treat lumber - creosote, or various metals - are designed to remain in the wood for a long time (otherwise, the wood would rot quickly) there is little doubt that they do eventually leach out into their surroundings. Even pressure-treated wood does not last forever in the outdoors. The extent to which the toxins in pressure-treated wood travel in the soil and whether they get taken up into plants and vegetables depends on many factors, including the chemical characteristics of the toxins, the acidity, carbon content, soil type and other factors in soil chemistry, and of course on the types of plants involved. If you need a border, you might consider using decorative bricks instead.

I found a caterpillar and it's now a chrysalis/coccoon. How long will it be before the butterfly/moth emerges?

This is a tough one. The best answer is usually, "wait and see"! But that's not very helpful. The time it takes for a butterfly or moth to emerge depends on a number of factors. What is the normal life cycle of the species in your area? For example, does the species overwinter in the pupal stage? Temperature can also play an important role in the metamorphosis or transformation of the caterpillar into a moth or butterfly. A species which is "programmed" to emerge in the spring after overwintering in the pupal stage may emerge much more quickly if kept inside a warm house. Alternatively, it might not emerge at all unless it experiences a prolonged period of cold. If all else fails, try waiting about three weeks.


Mike Habeck

See also: about eco-usa