It has been almost eight years since I moved down to Florida from Ohio. One of the most common sights I noticed quickly when I moved here was the lawn service trucks. Just about everybody uses them to keep their lawns green, growing and weed and pesticide-free. The volume of chemicals poured on the state each year must be a staggering number.
Soil is a common pathway to groundwater, and soil characteristics determine the rate at which chemicals move through it. Of course, in Florida the soil is mostly sand—very porous. The chemicals sprayed here feed algae and kill fish.
Perhaps the threat of greatest concern anywhere where lawn chemicals are used is damage to human health through groundwater contamination. Residents in many rural and suburban areas rely on groundwater for their drinking water supply. In North Carolina, for example, more than 50 percent of the population uses groundwater as a source of drinking water.
How much do you pay attention to what you or your suppliers apply to the grass on your property?
Helpful Factsheets, Infographic
The national environmental and public health group Beyond Pesticides recently 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.
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 warms that glyphosate can injure or kill 93 percent 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.
The California Supreme Court just upheld a $87 million award in a glyphosate damage lawsuit.
Gateway on Pesticide Hazards
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.
Be sure to check out the helpful resources mentioned above before applying chemicals to the greenery on your property.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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