Although most people associate fertilizers with green plants and healthy lawns, fertilizers can be a problem if applied improperly or with little regard for the environment it is being applied in. Knowing the dangers of improper fertilizer use will prevent harmful mistakes that can cost you the garden, lawn and local environment.
Soluble Salts Injury
When too much fertilizer is applied to a garden or lawn, an excess of soluble salts is accumulated. According to the Mississippi State University Extension, soluble salts can lead to injury of cucurbits such as squash, pumpkins and melons, which are highly susceptible to soluble salt poisoning. The results are wilting, yellowing and reduced water intake, which will weaken and stress the plant. This is also called fertilizer burn.
Phosphorus, one of the main ingredients of plant fertilizer and one of the main foods of plants, can lead to lake enrichment when fertilizer runs off yards into waterways. Enrichment causes the growth of algae and weeds, which can cause fish and other wildlife in the water to die. Lawn clippings and tree leaves that have touched fertilizer often cause this type of pollution. Soil moved by wind may also cause pollution in bodies of water.
Nitrogen and Leaching
Nitrogen is also a concern in lake and river pollution but travels in a different manner. Wildlife that eats grass fertilized with nitrogen can pass the nutrient through its manure, causing pollution that makes the water undrinkable. According to the Government of Alberta, Canada, excess nitrogen in water reacts with a human's red blood cells and their ability to carry oxygen throughout the body. Septic tank pollution, well contamination and spills of fertilizers can cause serious issues in water supplies.