Pesticides are chemical mixtures (poisons) designed to kill living things. Pesticides used for lawns and landscapes include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. While pesticides can be effective at first, pests eventually develop resistance to these chemical pesticides, requiring even more toxic formulations to be used. Pesticide use also kills beneficial insect species and beneficial soil microorganisms, which naturally outcompete pest populations and maintain a healthy and balanced soil biology. Many pesticides are very persistent and move through the environment, contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. They can also harm important insect pollinators, birds, aquatic organisms and both wild and domestic animals.
When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962, she raised public awareness about the effects of pesticide use on human health and the environment. Today, more than 50 years after she drew our attention to this threat, the use of pesticides has only increased. An impressive and growing body of peer-reviewed science links lawn pesticide exposures to human cancers, neurological and respiratory problems, endocrine and immune system dysfunction, reproductive harm and environmental illnesses, including multiple chemical sensitivity.
Children are particularly susceptible to the hazards associated with pesticide use. This is in part due to their small size, rapidly developing bodies and typical behaviors, such as hand to mouth activity, playing and rolling on treated lawns and on indoor carpets and floors where pesticides have been tracked inside. They also have immature immune, detoxification and elimination systems, leaving them less able than adults to handle chemicals insults. Pets, like children, are also disproportionately exposed and affected by pesticide exposures. They too roll on lawns and make direct contact with grass surfaces with their noses and mouths. They also lick their paws and fur, which are contaminated with pesticide residues. Studies show that dogs living in homes where lawn pesticides are used have a higher incidence of canine lymphoma.
Pesticides are a core issue for Grassroots, addressed in several of our programs and many of our print materials. Please visit our web pages on Organic Lawns & Landscapes, and the websites of our programs The ChildSafe School, and How Green Is My Town?