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Press Statement
Lawn Pesticides Uprooted Amidst New Lawn Season

Jay Feldman
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 and welfare.

Our advice to consumers: Next time you are approached by a chemical lawn care company, tell them you’re going organic.