Americans pour over 100 million pounds of chemicals on lawns every year. These fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are not only expensive, but damage the environment and even cause health problems. Instead, homeowners should cultivate a realistic attitude towards lawn care. A perfectly manicured, weed-free lawn comes at a heavy price. Instead, strive for a healthy--if imperfect--lawn.
"Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogencity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system," according to the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns. Children are especially vulnerable to permanent damage from exposure to pesticides because their bodies and brains are still developing. Children are also more likely to have prolonged exposure to lawn chemicals because they spend more time outside than adults, playing in the grass.
Toxic lawn chemicals are often found indoors at higher levels than outside in the yard, according to the Thurston, County Washington Public Health and Social Services Department. The chemicals migrate indoors on clothing and shoes, where they settle most heavily in carpets and upholstery. They don't break down indoors as quickly as they would outside where sun, wind and rain dissipate them.
Injurious lawn chemicals leach into groundwater and contaminate streams, rivers and lakes, where they kill aquatic birds, fish and frogs. Even lawn fertilizers, such as phosphorus and nitrogen cause water pollution, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. Phosphorus runs into gutters where it makes its way to streams and lakes. The phosphorus encourages algae growth, which chokes out aquatic animals, including fish and frogs. Nitrogen leaches through soils, polluting groundwater. Excessive levels of nitrogen in water can cause serious health problems in infants, advises the University of Minnesota.
Pets and Animals
Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 24 are toxic to fish, 11 are toxic to bees and 16 are toxic to birds. Dogs whose owners use lawn chemicals are more likely to develop a form of cancer known as canine malignant lymphoma, according to Marion Moses, M.D. of the Pesticide Education Center.
Create a green lawn naturally through good management practices. Select a lawn type appropriate for your climate and water it deeply and irregularly to promote healthy roots. Keep the lawn at least 2 to 3 inches high to conserve moisture and crowd out weeds and leave grass clippings on the lawn where they break down, providing nitrogen to the lawn.