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Archive for May, 2010

Three is too many…

Upon my return to Toronto from our winter home in Florida, I became aware of a 44-year-old superintendent in the area who has been struck with leukemia. This caught my attention because I, also, was diagnosed with chronic leukemia five or so years ago, and more than likely had it for several years prior.

This young fellow has undergone two years of medical treatment but with no positive results. He is now scheduled for a bone marrow transplant from his sister in July. He will be unable to work for at least six months and his chances of a full recovery are uncertain. Like most in his age bracket, he has a wife, a house with a mortgage, and a daughter about to enter college.

Another acquaintance of mine, a pro/superintendent now retired from a different golf course in the area, also struggles with leukemia. He takes medication but, like me, often feels tired and lethargic. Both of us have had our spleens removed to increase the number of platelets in our blood, but the process compromised our immune systems. Infections of any kind are now a serious threat.

Because misery loves company, we keep in touch and compare notes about our health. But, as opposed to the young superintendent in the midst of his life and career, my retired friend and I have lived the bulk of our lives.

Leukemia has been likened to a death sentence with a stay of execution. Thankfully all three of us have been spared so far.

Leukemia has been likened to a death sentence with a stay of execution. Thankfully all three of us have been spared so far…

Of course what all three of us also have in common is that we were exposed to pesticides for prolonged periods during our professional careers on the golf course. Our doctors, all highly qualified hematologists, believe there is a correlation between leukemia and exposure to pesticides. I questioned that conclusion at one time, but three of us now — within shouting distance of each other — are difficult to ignore.

For years experts in our field assured us — not once, or twice… but repeatedly at conferences and seminars — that properly applied pesticides are perfectly safe and will not cause cancer. Could those experts have been wrong? It certainly seems that way that way to me.

For years experts in our field assured us — not once, or twice… but repeatedly at conferences and seminars — that properly applied pesticides are perfectly safe…

Leukemia is a relatively rare disease that only affects about one person in a hundred thousand. For the longest time I believed that my condition was indeed a rarity, but now that we are three, that’s too many for a coincidence… and I’m sure there are others. Our fight with leukemia must not be ignored or swept under the rug. Superintendents have to be made aware of the real dangers they are exposed to in their daily lives on the golf course.  This is not something to be scoffed at or taken lightly.

Even though our application equipment is better, products are much safer than back in the days of mercury, the use of personal protective equipment more common and our education much improved, the dangers still exist. The time has come to apply fewer pesticides (or not at all), and our golfers have to learn to expect less than perfect conditions. There are already many in our ranks who have embraced this philosophy. We should applaud their efforts and advocate their practices for the betterment of golf and for the health of our profession.