Beautiful, lush green lawns are, well, beautiful.
But did you know 80 million pounds of pesticides and herbicides are used on lawns each year? Studies show these hazardous chemicals are drifting into our homes where they contaminate indoor air and surfaces, exposing children, pets and us at levels 10 times higher than pre-application levels.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a study of 9,282 people nationwide, found pesticides in all of those who had both blood and urine tested. The average person carried 13 of 23 pesticides tested. Chemicals that kill weeds, insects and a variety of diseases are sold separately and in combination with fertilizers such as “weed and feed.”
These formulations may include organophosphates, carbamates, phenoxy and benzoic acid herbicides like 2,4 D, MCPP, and MCPA, pyrethroids and organchlorines.
The World Health Organization recently announced that glyphosate (RoundUp), the world’s most widely produced herbicide, is a probable carcinogen. Of course the announcement was followed by immediate backlash from industry groups.
Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides and herbicides, 19 are linked with cancer, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) and 11 with disruption of the endocrine system.
Of those same toxic chemicals, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees and 16 are toxic to birds. Poisons are absorbed through the skin, by the mouth, or by breathing sprays, dusts, or vapors.
This includes touching contaminated grass, shoes, clothing, lawn furniture, carpet, etc. Don’t believe the hype that lawn chemicals are safe when dry. Many chemicals remain active from a month to over a year.
Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers can and do leach into private and public wells and water supplies. Unfortunately, there currently is no program to monitor our drinking water for this type of contamination. Many of the most widely used lawn-care chemicals have been detected in groundwater.
So must we say no to lush, green landscapes? Absolutely not. Natural landscape maintenance programs can achieve a healthy, pest-free landscape using the latest scientific developments in organic agriculture and horticulture. There are several organic lawn-care services in Central Kentucky.
For example, corn gluten is a natural pre-emergent weed killer and fertilizer now available to homeowners. Lawns can be enriched naturally by thinly spreading compost in the spring and fall. Also, natural lawn-care practices will lead to a healthy vigorous lawn which resists pests and disease.
The important thing to remember is we do not need legislation to protect ourselves, the environment, loved ones and pets. As consumers, we merely have to make intelligent choices.
Terri Fann of Lexington is an activist for the environment and preventive health.