WASHINGTON, D.C.—The national environmental and public health group Beyond Pesticides released its health and environmental effects factsheets and infographic for “40 Commonly Used Lawn Pesticides.” These comprehensive factsheets document with scientific citations a wide range of diseases and ecological effects linked to pesticides. The underlying analysis supporting the adverse health and environmental effects identified in the factsheets are based on toxicity determinations in government reviews and university studies and databases.
What do the two factsheets disclose? Health Effects of the 40 Most Commonly Used Lawn and Landscape Pesticides reveals that 26 are possible and/or known carcinogens, 24 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 29 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 21 have been linked to birth defects, 24 are neurotoxic, 32 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 33 are sensitizers and/or irritants. Environmental Effects of the 40 Most Commonly Used Lawn and Landscape Pesticides shows that 21 are detected in groundwater, 24 can leach into drinking water sources, 39 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 33 are toxic to bees, 18 are toxic to mammals, and 28 are toxic to birds.
In addition to the factsheets, Beyond Pesticides manages the Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management (Pesticide Gateway) and Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database to track the scientific literature and the federal and state regulatory process governing pesticides. Additionally, the organization manages a database, ManageSafe, to address nontoxic methods for common pest management issues.
Tools for Decision-Making
The 40 commonly used factsheets are a tool for local land management decision-making. Empty cells in the factsheet chart may refer to either insufficient data or if currently available data considers the chemical relatively non-toxic. The ledger following the common chemicals chart includes information on how to interpret the categorization of specific compounds. For instance, the ¥ symbol next to atrazine indicates that this chemical has residential uses specific to the Southeast United States. However, atrazine is also heavily used on Midwestern farms and readily contaminates midwestern waterways, leading to nationwide contamination, information that will be found on the Pesticide Gateway.
“People and community decision-makers need an easy-to-use tool to make informed choices on protecting health and the environment,” said Akayla Bracey, Beyond Pesticides’ science and regulatory manager. “Using this tool in combination with additional tools for sustainable management practices is critical to community and ecological health.”
The factsheets distill a large amount of scientific data. For example, the main chemical ingredient in Roundup—glyphosate—is the world’s most widely used herbicide. The factsheet identifies glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, based on finding of the World Health Organizations’ (W.H.O.) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Additionally, research has linked glyphosate to high rates of kidney disease in farming communities and to shortened pregnancy in a cohort of women in the Midwest. Animal studies and bioassays link it to endocrine disruption, DNA damage, decreased sperm function, disruption of the gut microbiome, and fatty liver disease. Glyphosate is also linked to environmental damage. The EPA warns that glyphosate can injure or kill 93% of U.S. endangered species. It is a primary driver of the decimation of monarch butterfly populations because it destroys the milkweed plants their young depend on. Recent research has also shown that glyphosate can disrupt honeybee gut microbiomes, affect larval development, increase colony vulnerability to pathogen infestation, reduce productivity, and impair honeybee navigation, linking the herbicide to declines in bee populations.