Raise your hand if you have applied weed & feed, roundup, broadleaf herbicide, or any other chemical weed killer to your lawn this year. Was it worth your time? Worth your money? Worth the risks to living things and our environment?
I know what you’re thinking: not another soapbox preacher! I am so tired of people telling me what to do. Give me one good reason why I should continue reading this.
Okay, I’ll give you four.
Like you, I care about the health of humans and pets, the sustainability of our food supply, and the protection of our limited water resources. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of environmental toxins during development, and one easy way to protect kids is to reduce their exposure to chemicals.
Kids spend a lot of time in the grass.
But my lawn company assured me the chemicals are safe 24 hours after application! It says right on the little white flag.
Here’s what one recent scientific article from the UK’s Institute of Science in Society had to say about glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient:
“All of glyphosate’s chemical properties already mentioned have implications for the health of both people and planet. Scientific research has additionally implicated glyphosate as an endocrine disruptor and a DNA mutagen; and it affects over 291 different enzymes in the body . It is increasingly linked with a wide variety of illnesses, the sharp rises in illnesses occurring in parallel with glyphosate application across various GM cultivating regions of the world.
The most convincing evidence of glyphosate toxicity is the consistent pattern of diseases associated with glyphosate that has emerged from the farm to the clinic and from scientific studies to citizen testimonials.”
Another article on reuters.com reports from a study on Roundup out of MIT, “Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”
Okay, okay. We know that lawn chemicals are potentially bad. But aren’t we exposed to thousands of new chemicals a year? Why worry so much about lawn chemicals?
It’s not only the chemicals we need to worry about. It’s the obsession with having a pristine, weed-free lawn. What’s the harm, you ask?
Besides the assault on the environment from the chemicals themselves, when you remove the weeds, you remove biodiversity. Without biodiversity, species are dying off. Recently, I read a very alarming article about how we humans are scripting our own destruction as part of an impending mass extinction, all due to the loss of biodiversity. My lawn has about 50 more plant species in it than my neighbors’ and that doesn’t take into account the hundreds more in my native flower gardens. One beneficial lawn “weed” is the dandelion, which provides one of the first blooming pollinators for bees in the spring.
Start by reading this informative article from the New York Times entitled, “Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass.” The article is about atrazine, a chemical commonly found in tap water. Some eye-opening details in the article:
“Recent studies suggest that when adults and fetuses are exposed to even small doses of atrazine, like those allowed under law, they may suffer serious health effects. In particular, some scientists worry that atrazine may be safe during many periods of life but dangerous during brief windows of development, like when a fetus is growing and pregnant women are told to drink lots of water.
“There are short, critical times — like when a fetus’s brain is developing — when chemicals can have disastrous impacts, even in very small concentrations,” said Deborah A. Cory-Slechta, a professor at the University of Rochester in New York who has studied atrazine’s effects on the brain and serves on the E.P.A.’s science advisory board. “The way the E.P.A. tests chemicals can vastly underestimate risks.”
Still not convinced? Allow me to tug on your heartstrings a little with this article written by a cardiologist, called “Weed Killer and Pet Death.” His tells of a sweet little 4-pound Yorkie who died the day after the owner’s condo association sprayed for weeds. In your heart of hearts, do you truly believe that a substance sprayed on grass and weeds that will kill the plants at the root will have absolutely no effect on your dog when he not only rolls in the grass, but eats it?
We can not be complacent and ignore the rising numbers of cancers in humans and pets. It may be impossible to avoid chemicals in our world, but it is easy to make changes at home. Accept the weeds or find natural alternatives. Stand up to peer pressure.
Last spring at one of my daughter’s first softball practices of the season, I sat in the bleachers and wrinkled my nose at the pungent scent of Roundup weed killer. I looked around to pinpoint the source of the smell, though I only had to look as far as the edge of the gravel surrounding the bleachers and dugouts to see the white flag. I was horrified to discover that the date on the flags (for how long to avoid the area) was the next day, and even more horrified to discover that the gravel was still wet. The gravel where my daughter had just set her helmet and water bottle. The gravel that kids were using to make piles with their bare hands.
At a later game with my son, I watched a little girl showering the gravel on her head. As a parent, I never would have thought to worry about the presence of herbicides in the stones my kids play with. The unfortunate truth is herbicides are everywhere. And nothing’s going to change until the adults take a stand.