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What Are the Dangers of Lawn Chemicals?

By Linda Emma ; Updated September 21, 2017
That perfect green lawn can come at a deadly cost.
grass,lawn image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com

Insecticides, herbicides and fungicides that are used to keep bugs and weeds from infiltrating pristine landscapes also leech into groundwater, mist the air with toxic plumes and contaminate the land and its inhabitants. Those poisons may be quite effective at killing off lawn nuisances, but they can also kill untargeted insects and birds and wreck havoc on the immune systems of animals and humans.

Herbicide Human Health Risks

Lawn herbicides such as dicamba, glyphosate and dicholorophenoxyacedtic acid can cause a range of human health issues. Some of the symptoms resulting from exposure, such as running noses and watery eyes, are mild. However, these herbicides have been linked to disruptions in the human endocrine system, reduced sperm counts and malformations, miscarriages, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and soft tissue cancers. Additionally, because Dicholorophenoxyacedtic acid, the most commonly used herbicide in the world-in production for over 50 years-was often co-formulated with dioxin-contaminated chemicals, much of it remains contaminated. Dioxin is considered the deadliest man-made chemical in existence and causes birth defects, suppressed immune systems, diabetes, heart disease and cancers.

Pesticide Dangers

Pesticides such as acephate, bifenthrin, carbaryl, imidacloprid and trichlorfon do a good job of killing lawn pests but also have adverse effects on nontargeted insects and birds. Acephate, for example kills molecrickets, chinch bugs and ants, but is also highly toxic to honeybees. Birds are also unintended victims of pesticide poisonings. Susceptible to chemicals wafting in the air, birds also feed on bugs and worms living in infected lawns. Pesticide pellets often look tantalizingly like food to birds. According to the National Audubon Society, declining bird populations correspond to the increased use of pesticides. Pesticides have also been linked to a range of human health issues from mild flu-like symptoms to lowered fertility rates, miscarriages, birth defects, liver and kidney problems, neurological damage, heart disease, immune system disorders and cancer.

Dangers to Children

Lawn chemicals can have devastating effects on children's undeveloped immune systems.
kids on a meadow image by Marzanna Syncerz from Fotolia.com

Kids, particularly infants and toddlers, are more susceptible to the health risks associated with lawn pesticides than adults. Play routines that encourage outdoor lawn tromping activities also mean that children's skin comes in direct contact with residual lawn chemicals. They can breathe or ingest trace amounts every time they put their hands or lawn-touching toys in their mouths. Because childrenâ??s brains, nervous, reproductive and immune systems are still developing and because a small amount to an adult is proportionately large to small children, the effects of the poisons multiply. Additionally, there is medical evidence that suggests that childrenâ??s developing excretory systems may be unable to remove pesticides in the way an adultâ??s can.

Chemical Fertilizers

Even chemical fertilizers intended to grow rather than kill can have a negative impact on the environment. Those booster shots of nitrogen and phosphorus that many fertilizers contain often inject lawns with more than they need. As a result, the soilâ??s natural ecosystem can be tilted. Additionally, while fertilizers may be good for green lawns, theyâ??re not so good for many other plants, wildlife and fish. As runoff from lawns makes its way to streams and rivers, the far reach of fertilizers and pesticides can leave a lasting and negative impact no where near their originating neighborhood.

Contaminations to Water

Lawn chemicals leech to groundwater and make their way to streams and rivers. From tiny microcosms that are consumed by larger organisms to fish that are consumed by animals and humans, everyone is then subject to some level of chemical exposure. While the effects of the poisons are their own danger, they also require human bodily responses. Immune systems ramp up in defense and reactions can lead to overreactions. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is believed to be the result of overexposure to synthetic chemicals. This debilitating condition is a hypersensitivity to even what would have been considered benign chemicals. Symptoms can include nausea, fatigue, headaches, rashes, irritability and mood changes, breathing problems, chest pains, and more.


About the Author


Linda Emma is a long-standing writer and editor. She is also a digital marketing professional and published author with more than 20 years experience in media and business. She works as a content manager and professional writing tutor at a private New England college. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.