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Andy Lopez, Contributing Columnist/Invisible Gardener
7:28 am PST December 18, 2018

This is a continuing series on how to deal with toxins as well as tree and property restoration, and how to stay safe while doing so.

The most important thing is to stay safe. I drive around town a lot, and I have seen very few folks wearing masks, and the few who I did see with masks were not wearing the proper model. Look for N95 masks. I would order them from Amazon and have them delivered as soon as possible. 

I also would wear a protective face mask, full body protection and, of course, gloves. Toxins have many ways in which they can enter our bodies, including through touch. The list of home toxins is very extensive. We have more toxins in our homes than a chemical war plant. We buy and bring home toxins that should never be burned. 

Just because you cannot see or smell anything does not mean it is not there. Whenever you have this kind of massive toxin environment spring up overnight, the dangers will not be apparent until you have already been dangerously exposed. 

Your pets are in a worse situation, and they must not be allowed to walk outside unless it is in a clean environment. Animals will have a hard time not getting sick since they cannot wear protective masks, so it is a good idea to find other places for them until it has been cleaned up. 

I would also suggest purchasing an air quality monitor. I use an IGRESS which I got from Amazon. It will tell you when it is not safe. 

You definitely should get an air purifier for each room. I use Levoit from Amazon, but there are many you can choose from.

It will take a few years for all the toxins to be dispersed. Think about toxins in the national forest. Many toxins may be carried by the winds and fall into the forest areas. The winds will disperse the toxins around again once it is hot and dry, so toxins will be around for a while.

The same goes for any radiation. Many folks are worried about Malibu’s exposure to materials at our local nuclear research center. I have been testing for radiation levels, and so far I have not found any “dangerous” locations. If you think you have a hot spot, please let me know, and I will test it and post on Nextdoor. 

What I have found is that background radiation levels are a little bit higher than usual. Here is the thing: If there were a radioactive leak due to fires at that site, they would be able to tell from their monitors. What they do and do not tell us is another story, so I prefer to find out for myself. 

So, let’s say there was a radiation leak due to fires. That radiation would travel on the Santa Ana and disperse. The rains do wash it down from the sky, but, when it dries, it will get blown around. So expect things to happen in late spring or summer when things get hot and then windy. That would be a good time to monitor for radiation and air quality. 

Now that it is raining, the air quality will improve, but the toxins are now in the soil and covering everything from trees to fruit to vegetables. Fruits and vegetables should not be eaten unless they are tested for toxins and radiation. I would test everything for a few years at least.

The soil will need to be removed and disposed of properly and then rebuilt. You should use a half-and-half mixture of live compost and clean topsoil. There are many soil companies around to choose from. Just do not use anything with sewer sludge, as that stuff is toxic.

Many also are wondering how to determine if their trees will survive and, if they are alive, what to do.

There are two ways to go about determining if your trees are alive. 

First, you can tell your gardener only to prune back what is dead on the tree. If nothing is alive, I would still wait a few months. You might be surprised as to how trees and other living things will regenerate. I would use an organic fertilizer and apply compost and azalea/gardenia mix. If it still dies, pull it up, amend the soil and replant.

The other way is to get an arborist to come out to see if the tree(s) will survive or not. I would not leave it up to your gardener unless he or she is really good at it.

One of the best ways to encourage your tree(s) to recover is to foliar spray them. The spray will be absorbed through not just the leaves (if it has any left), but also the bark. You also should soak the soil with the spray. The spray should be something as simple as compost tea or a mineral-based tea. Compost tea will help not just the trees but also the soil to come back to life. I would use something like Sea-90 to add minerals or add rock dust directly to the soil. You can make a rock dust tea by adding 1 cup of rock dust to 10 gallons of water. Allow the mixture to sit, strain it and then spray. 

Another option is milk, which is rich in the calcium the trees need. I’d try 1 cup of milk per 10 cups of water.

Any questions? Email me at andylopez@invisiblegardener.com.