As winter weary folks turn to thoughts of spring this seemed like an appropriate time to raise awareness of the overuse and misuse of lawn and garden chemicals. Months of viewing a bleak landscape of brown (occasionally white) increases our desire for the perfect green lawn. Frequently, our attempts at creating such perfection overshadow our understanding of the health risks associated with pesticides.
We are mistakenly led to believe that these chemicals must be safe, or they would not be so easily available to the consumer. Because a product is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not qualify it as “safe.” EPA registration merely implies that a product will do what it says it will do kill or diminish some life form (bug, plant, or mold). Exposure to adults poses a variety of health risks even when used as directed. Children, toddlers, and pets suffer greater risks because they play closer to the ground and because of their small size. It has been noted by the American Cancer Society that children with leukemia have a sixfold increase of exposure to lawn chemicals over children without leukemia. These chemicals enter our homes on our shoes, and can leach into our well water.
EPA acknowledges many ingredients as confirmed (or suspected) carcinogens. Other ingredients are recognized neurotoxins causing neurological damage. This can take the form of headaches, nausea, respiratory difficulties, motor-coordination, mental learning, or behavior impairment.
In addition to lawn chemicals, spring also increases the use of commercial pesticide applications for ants, roaches, termites, etc. Homeowners, apartment occupants, office workers, and others should be cautious about pesticide applications. Exposure to chlorpyrifos, the main ingredient in Dursban, has been implicated in miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects, multiple chemical sensitivity, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Don’t leave your well-being in the hands of others. There are several informative publications available for free from the New York State Attorney General’s Office (914) 452-3900 or (518) 474-7330. Request any or all of the following titles:
Pesticides and Lawns – recommends less toxic approaches to lawn maintenance.
Pesticides in Schools – discusses indoor/ outdoor health risks to children, faculty, and staff,and offers ways to reduce exposure.
Toxic Fairways – discusses the health risks to golfers,workers and nearby property owners regarding toxicity, run-off, and water contamination.
The Secret Hazards of Pesticides: Inert Ingredients – educates about many previously held misconceptions regarding the implied safety of pesticides.