Lawn Pesticides Uprooted Amidst New Lawn Season
Executive Director, Beyond Pesticides
April 13, 2005
As our communities
are bombarded with lawn care company advertising this Spring, we should
all take note that the health and environmental hazards associated with
pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and the availability of alternatives,
make the no-chemical choice an easy one.
Green lawns do not require
toxic chemicals to be beautiful, yet the concentration of pesticide use
on lawns today is higher than some agricultural fields, with upwards of
10 pounds applied per acre, compared with a soybean field of 2.5 pounds.
EPA’s latest figures show that nonagricultural pesticide use is
approximately 213 million pounds annually. Homeowners account for roughly
900 million of herbicide use per year and home usage is on the rise, jumping
42 percent from 1998 to 2001. At the same time homeowners turning to organic
products. Organic Gardening Magazine and the National Gardening Association,
in a 2004 survey, found that of the 78 million households with lawns,
over half are already using some or all organic products.
In addition to the high volume
of pesticide use on lawns, it should be noted that of the 30 commonly
used lawn pesticides, 14 can cause cancer, 18 reproductive effects, 18
neurotoxic damage, 20 liver or kidney effects, and nearly all are skin
irritants and sensitizers. One product label even reads that repeated
exposure may make a person more susceptible to the effects of this and
related chemicals. The EPA regulatory program and the governing federal
law has not kept up with the restrictions needed to protect people and
the environment, nor the options in the marketplace which make these poisonous
products unnecessary and obsolete.
And if you think that pesticides
stay where they are applied, think about the fact that our analysis finds
17 of these commonly used chemicals have been found in groundwater and
23 are known to leach. Eleven are toxic to birds, 28 toxic to fish or
aquatic organisms and 11 to bees, which we need to pollinate our vegetable
gardens, not to mention farmlands. Some pesticides are known to contaminate
community water systems or wells, others run-off into streams and waterways,
and all drift off the target site.
These chemicals represent secondhand
pollution, causing involuntary exposure and contamination that cannot
be contained to the site to which they are applied.
We cannot take comfort in the
fact that these chemicals are registered by EPA because (i) testing is
incomplete, (ii) the law allows for many of these hazards, (iii) children
are not protected, and (iv) some of the most hazardous ingredients, considered
trade secret, are not disclosed on the product label. In fact, EPA does
not test the full product formulation. So, the product on the shelf is
not fully evaluated and the product ingredients are not fully disclosed.
As a result of this situation, the pesticide product label does not adequately
protect the user or those exposed to these products. Therefore, EPA’s
advice to follow the label is not protective.
We have joined with grassroots
organizations across the country in forming the National Coalition for
Pesticide-Free Lawns and issued a Declaration on the Use of Toxic Lawn
Pesticides in an effort to spread the word on toxic hazards of lawn and
landscape chemicals and the availability of alternatives. Through this
coalition, we have developed a unified voice across the country, which
is growing louder, that says that the continued use of these poisons is
unnecessary and unacceptable. This launch coincides with a push by the
chemical lawn care industry to escalate its public relations barrage this
Spring through Project Evergreen, in which they attack those who are raising
questions about the use of unnecessary and harzardous chemical use. The
chemical lawn care industry is misleading consumers and landscapers about
the hazards of pesticides and need for their products.
Today we contacted two of the
largest retailers of home and garden chemicals, Home Depot and Lowes,
and asked them to begin a dialogue with us about offering customers a
wider selection of natural, non-toxic lawn products and training their
employees on how to advise customers on natural lawn care. In addition,
we specifically asked that they stop the sale of “weed and feed”
products that expose children and pets to chemicals linked to cancer,
and contaminate soil and water sources. The combination of toxic pesticides
and hazardous fertilizers in “weed and feed” products represents
the extreme in unnecessary pollution.
We believe that communities
should immediately act to stop the unnecessary use of lawn and landscape
pesticides in their communities on both public and private land. Because
of the secondhand contamination and poisoning, and given the availability
and viability of alternatives, we can act now. Where the chemical industry
has successfully thwarted the democratic right of communities to stop
the use of pesticides, by preempting this authority, states should repeal
these laws and return the democratic process to protect community health
Our advice to consumers: Next
time you are approached by a chemical lawn care company, tell them you’re