Although most gardeners would like to use only biological or mechanical methods for weed control, such as planting plants close together to shade out weeds, mulching flower beds to smother weeds or handpicking the weeds themselves, there are some problems that may require a chemical solution. Roundup, a popular choice for weed control, kills plants on contact with its active ingredient, glyphosate. Some studies point out problems with Roundup that are important to consider.
Roundup Kills Plants and Weeds Indiscriminately
Because Roundup does kill plants on contact, it can kill plants other than weeds if the wind carries it beyond the desired zone. One study cited by the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) found that from 14 to 78 percent of Roundup can travel as much as 1,300 feet. Roundup claims to prevent new weeds from sprouting up for four months, and the CCAEJ reports claim that the period can actually last up to a year, again posing a risk to plants you would like to keep.
Glyphosate May Poison People
CCAEJ also reports that despite the fact that this active ingredient in Roundup is meant only to be toxic to plants, it does in fact cause problems in people as well. CCAEJ cites studies that show Roundup to cause "eye and skin irritation and nausea, conjunctivitis, vomiting and diarrhea." CCAEJ goes on to say that "glyphosate ranked eighth for most number of complaints filed with the state by people poisoned" by Roundup. These finding are also cited by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) who looked at reputable studies from universities and governmental agencies, such as the National Cancer Institute and Health Canada.
Polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA) May Cause Serious Harm or Death
POEA is the inert ingredient added to Roundup to help the active ingredient do its job. CCAEJ reported that a study from the American Medical Journal found POEA to cause "acute toxicity" and even fatalities in some people. CCAEJ lists symptoms caused by POEA as "vomiting and gastrointestinal pain, swelling of the lungs and pneumonia, reduction of blood pressure, clouding of consciousness, and red blood cell destruction."