Friday, April 22, 2016, is officially Earth Day, but Friends of Animals is reminding homeowners across the country that when it comes to lawn care, everyday should be Earth Day. Aesthetically pleasing and no longer cost prohibitive, organic lawn care is the only choice as evidence of the health risks of pesticides—to human and non-human animals—piles up.
One of the more recent studies, published in the journal Environmental Research, reveals that the use of professionally applied pesticides was associated with a significant 70 percent higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma. Risk was also higher in those reporting use of self-applied insect growth regulators.
Another study, which appeared in Science of the Total Environment, was done as a follow-up to one that showed a significant association between lawn chemical exposure and increased bladder cancer risk in dogs with a strong genetic risk for the cancer. The study showed that dogs can internalize lawn chemicals from exposure to their treated lawn, as well as to exposure to their untreated but contaminated lawn from other treated areas such as neighbors’ yards and nearby parks.
Charles Chip Osborne, Jr., learned the hard way about the dangers of pesticides. Osborne, Jr., who led the charge in the town of Marlblehead, Mass., which has become a model for pesticide-free turf grass management, was once a self-described “big pesticide user” until the mid-1990s. The defining moment that made him switch to organic was the death of his beloved English Springer Spaniel Jessie from cancer in her mammary glands and stomach. Jessie accompanied him to work every day at his commercial garden center, where pesticides were sprayed every seven to 10 days. The cool soil under the greenhouse benches where Jessie used to sleep in the hot summer months is also where the pesticides dripped from the plants.
Whether you want to rally an entire community like Osborne, Jr., or switch to organic in your own back yard, there is plenty of information available to get started at www.beyondpesticides.com, a national advocacy group for the elimination of pesticides of which he is a board member.
You can make a difference, one lawn at a time, starting with your own. You can educate neighbors that pesticides absorbed by plants, insects and microbes move up the food chain to accumulate in birds, fish, wildlife and people. Herbicides applied to lawns are tracked into the house where they remain for months in carpets, toys and house dust. Studies have shown that fetuses and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of pesticides. Exposure of parents to pesticides is associated with birth defects, cancer and infertility in the next generation.
You can help others avoid specific products like Roundup, which contains glyphosate, an ingredient that has been linked to Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, and dangerous ingredients like 2,4-D—derived from Agent Orange and found in more than a 1,000 products sold in the United States. And you can tell neighbors to stop using popular products that contain neonicinotoids, which are fatal to pollinators, such as any of the Bayer 2-in-1, 3-in-1, or All-in-One garden insecticides; Green Light Tree and Shrub Insect Control, Complete Brand Insect Killer; and Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Killer.