Are Lawn Pesticides Bad for your (children’s, pet’s, family’s) health?

Via on May 23, 2009

Update: top 10 emailed article from the NY Times: The Toxic Brew in our Yards. “The United States Fish and Wildlife Service says homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals per acre than farmers do.”

Caution: It’s all over your neighborhood: and it causes cancer, and harms children and pets most easily.

I sometimes walk barefoot. Children often do. My dog likes to chew on grass. Is this bad for us?

This morning, in the green cradle that is Boulder Valley, I went drank some organic coffee, hopped on my bike and, with my rescue dog, went downtown—where local, independent business proliferate. Returning, I came across a sign on a neighbor’s lawn that looked like this:

lawn pesticides

Pesticides, especially when sprayed on bushes and trees, can easily waft onto other neighbors’ lawns. Video:

“Pesticide,” as most of us know, is a fancy word for “poison.” Injested through food (say, on your apple tree), it’s really bad. Runoff into our waterways, real bad. Rolling around in it, not great (as founder of Pangea Organics Josh Onysko likes to remind people, our skin is 87% absorbent of whatever’s put on it, it’s like a big sponge). And yet we fail to connect the dots between cancer (click here for resources), neurological and reproductive disorders and birth defects on the one hand…and our casual everyday use of pesticides on the other hand. Lawn and garden pesticides are also leading cause of bird deaths, dead waterways and dead pollinators (bees…).

pesticide lawn schoolpesticide free sign

And yet, 76 million pounds of pesticides are applied residentially (not counting our schools and…egad, hospitals) each year. That’s 75% of American homes? So why do we hate dandelions (which can be eaten or made into wine, after all) more than we love our families?

Because, though pesticides are named on the EPA’s list of endocrine disruptors, we don’t think of pesticides—or, for that matter, Windex and the other charming chemicals beneath our sinks—as poisons.

Some cities have organized “pesticide-free” campaigns (click images below for more resources)

pesticide lawnpesticide lawn canada

And yet, with cigarette smoking, we’ve seen how a populace, once the facts are clear, can move to separate those who want to use a poisonous product that just happens to have some nice effects from those who want to stay healthy. Smokers, for example, aren’t allowed to smoke within 15 feet of entrances, let alone indoors, in Boulder.

So why do we allow indiscriminate pesticide use? My question for you lawyers out there is, can we sue neighbors, or better yet pesticide companies, for poisoning (even if in small doses) and harming the long-term health of our children, pets and loved ones? Would seem like a candidate for a class-action suit.

natural lawn care signs pesticide

And what are other ways to encourage natural lawn care by our neighbors, city governments and farmers?

natural lawn care

Here’s 10 Tips from the EPA on how to protect your children and pets.

pesticide lawn epa

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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8 Responses to “Are Lawn Pesticides Bad for your (children’s, pet’s, family’s) health?”

  1. Rick Gilbert says:

    http://www.epa.gov/endo/pubs/edspoverview/whatare
    Please read the last sentence in the second to last paragraph. There's a lot of debate on these issues right now. Pesticides include herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, etc. A huge variety of chemicals, some way more dangerous than others.

    In my career in hazardous waste management, I have a personal bias against malathion. I have been sickened by it on several occasions. However, I still use an occasional squirt of Round Up in very select areas around my home. I think the key words in your article are "indiscriminate." We need to have a keen awareness of the health impacts, and the benefits vs. drawbacks of using these chemicals.

    Most of the time, I let the dandelions grow in my yard. However, if I had an infestation of carpenter ants or other insects that may do damage to my house or family, I may pursue less toxic options first, but I would break out the big guns if necessary.

  2. Kevin Hotaling says:

    Awesome cause … I'm not sure when it was decided that the natural environment was unsuitable for dignified homeowners, but it really must be undecided.

  3. sj* says:

    i would also like to know what "rights" citizens have when it comes to the bi-weekly spraying of toxic chemicals up and down the streets in the name of "mosquito management." if these chemies are harmful to the bugs, ain't they harmful to humans, animals, etc? don't we have a right to decide if we get sprayed with these unknown substances? here in the heart of texas it has been an uphill battle with this sort of toxicity. the number one ish? people have been brainwashed into thinking that these chemies are ligit, necessary and safe. maybe we need a few lawsuits to get people talking?!

  4. Satyabroto says:

    A safer alternative to cosmetic pesticides is to use friendly insects. Gardeners and urban communities can rear egg parasites such as Trichogramma and predators such as Chrysoperla. Honeybees are also known to scare some pests away with the fearsome flapping of their wings. P3-parasites, predators, and pollinators-forms a firm phalanx against pests, and will not harm people, animals, or the environment.

  5. [...] labeled as “natural” still contain artificial and altered counterparts, as well as pesticides and environmentally detrimental [...]

  6. I really like this site and "Pesticide" is a fancy word for Poison. Natural, Green Lawn Care. | elephant journal . I read about you on another site called http://wholesalewaterproducts.com and thought they had great views as well.

  7. BZE says:

    Pesticides get a bad rep because the people using them apply them either carelessly or on days when they shouldn't be applying them….thus causing fish kills and bird deaths. These small instances give pesticides a bad name, when in fact if applied correctly wouldn't result in these occurences. The use of pesticides and herbicides is not only because people want their lawns to look "manicured", but also to take care of invasive species which have no natural predators to natural areas. In some instances, if you don't catch things early enough on, whole ecosystems can be destroyed. There is good and a bad to both sides of the predicament.

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