Pesticide and Environmental Update
Refuse to Use Lawn Chemicals
This spring, two national campaigns highlight the risks of lawn and garden pesticides. With evidence that exposure to lawn care chemicals presents health risks to children and pets and pollutes water and the environment, both campaigns ask that households switch to non-toxic alternatives. The Toxics Action Center in Boston has targeted TruGreen ChemLawn, the nation's largest provider of lawn care services, and urges consumers to "Refuse to Use ChemLawn." The National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns asks consumers to use non-toxic alternatives, urge retailers to stock non-toxic lawn care products, and pressure public officials for protection from the aesthetic use of pesticides.
A report by the Toxics Action Center reveals ChemLawn's aggressive marketing practices and analyzes the 32 pesticide products the company markets to its household customers. More than half of the products include ingredients identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the World Health Organization as possible carcinogens, one third contain known or suspected endocrine disruptors, and more than a quarter contain reproductive toxins. Over 40% of the chemicals on ChemLawn's list contain ingredients banned in other countries, and all of the products in their arsenal pose threats to water supplies, aquatic organisms, and non-target insects.
Each year, homeowners apply at least 90 million pounds of pesticides to their lawns and gardens. Home use of pesticides has risen 42% between 1998 and 2001 and now represents the only growth sector of the U.S. pesticide market. Pesticides are also applied more intensively for lawn care, with applications rates between 3.2 to 9.8 pounds per acre for lawns, as opposed to agricultural averages of 2.7 pounds per acre.
Importantly, this intensive pesticide use occurs where children-more vulnerable than adults to the effects of pesticide exposure-live and play. The Toxic Action Center report notes that "children's internal organs are still developing and maturing and their enzymatic, metabolic, and immune systems provide less natural protection than those of an adult." Researchers are increasingly identifying several especially vulnerable stages of child development, including fetal and adolescent developmental windows, in which chemical exposures can permanently alter future development.
Pesticides applied on residential and commercial lawns are known to migrate indoors. An EPA study found that residues from outdoor pesticides are tracked in by pets and people's shoes, and can increase the pesticide loads in carpet dust as much as 400-fold. Pesticides have also been found to persist for years within homes, where they do not degrade from exposure to sunlight or rain.
TruGreen ChemLawn sells its services through aggressive telemarketing campaigns, one of which was an arrangement with the US Youth Soccer program to market services to the parents of soccer-playing kids. Under pressure from public health and environmental groups, US Youth Soccer ended its relationship with TruGreen ChemLawn in January of this year. A number of states have penalized the company for its aggressive and misleading marketing.
Both consumer campaigns emphasize the availability of non-toxic lawn care alternatives. Groups like the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) have programs to regularly train and certify professionals in pesticide-free landscaping services. The Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns, representing groups across the nation, notes the number of communities that have adopted a precautionary approach, including a Natural Yard Care Program by local government in the Seattle area, and the 70 Canadian cities that have restricted or banned the aesthetic use of pesticides.
Visit http://www.RefuseToUseChemLawn.org/ for a copy of their report and to sign the Refuse to Use ChemLawn pledge.
Visit the Pesticide Free Lawns on the Beyond Pesticides website at http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pesticidefreelawns/ and sign the pledge.
Sources: Refuse to Use ChemLawn, Be Truly Green, Why Lawn Care Pesticides are Dangerous to Your Children, Pets and the Environment, Matthew Wilson and Jay Rasku, Toxics Action Center, March 2005, 44 Winter Street, Boston, MA 02108, Backgrounder, National Coalition for Pesticide Free Lawns, Beyond Pesticides, http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pesticidefreelawns
Contact: Toxics Action Center, , phone 617-292-4821, Beyond Pesticides, phone 202-543-5450, Defenders of Wildlife 202-772-0237