Keep Off the Grass for Your Own Sake
By: Dr Lynn Thompson
In springtime our attention turns from snow removal and keeping warm to preparing and caring for a lush, green, and beautiful lawn. How we accomplish the picture-perfect lawn may be less than “perfect.” According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops.”1
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) allows the use of over 200 pesticides, and approximately 35 of these chemicals and combinations are in over 90 percent of lawn care treatments accounting for over 80 million pounds of pesticides used yearly on the nearly 30 million acres of lawn in the United States.
How do these toxic chemicals affect human health? Chemicals that are used as pesticides are toxic and have been associated with birth defects, adverse reproductive effects, mutations, and cancer in laboratory animals. The EPA has only tested “nine of the 750 registered pesticides for their effect on the developing nervous system: six of the nine tested were more harmful to young animals than adults.”2 Fetuses, infants, and children under the age of five, when their cells reproduce more rapidly, are more vulnerable to pesticides. Children may encounter more damage to their reproductive systems and loss of brain function when exposed to the neurotoxins.3 Households that were using pesticides have statistically increased odds of children with leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma.4
Many of the causative agents in the pesticides are the inert ingredients. Many of the inert materials are extremely toxic and may make up 90 to 95 percent of the pesticide product. Some of the inert materials are suspected carcinogens. Others are suspected to be toxic to the central nervous system and related disorders, kidney and liver damage, birth defects, and some short-term health effects.5
You can try to avoid exposures by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, washing exposed areas often, and keeping your personal protective equipment clean and in good operating condition. The following information is from the National Pesticide Information Center6
What to Do When Pesticide Poisoning Occurs
The key to surviving and recovering from a pesticide poisoning is rapid treatment. Take emergency action immediately when you suspect a pesticide poisoning. As time continues to elapse after exposure, recovery is hindered, and the toxic effects are heightened.
Immediately call 911 whenever a pesticide poisoning is suspected. An advanced life support team will be dispatched to provide assistance. Additional information is available at The Poison Center, 1-800-955-9119. The poison center will be able to provide specific directions on procedures to follow until a life support team arrives.
What a victim might think is a cold or the flu could be a fatal pesticide poisoning. Whenever possible, find out the following critical information:
Has the victim been exposed to a pesticide?
If so, which one and how did the exposure occur?
What emergency actions are on the pesticide label?
Many labels direct that vomiting be induced. Vomiting can be induced by giving the patient ipecac and water or by inserting the finger into the throat of the victim. Do not induce vomiting when:
the label says not to
convulsions have occurred
the victim is unconscious
the pesticide contains petroleum products such as xylene
Always wash the victim’s exposed skin with a detergent and plenty of water. Skin irritation can result from continuous exposure if not treated. If skin exposure occurs, obtain medical treatment. If the victim’s clothing has been contaminated by a pesticide that is readily absorbed dermally, remove the clothing and decontaminate the victim’s skin.
Even though careful pesticide application is normal, accidents can happen. Be prepared. Keep the number for the Poison Center readily available either in your telephone directory or near your telephone. Do not hesitate to contact medical authorities if any symptoms of pesticide poisoning occur. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Dr. Lynn Thompson holds doctorates in chiropractic, naturopathy, and homoeopathy, and is one of sixty-five people worldwide certified by doTERR to teach the AromaTouch Technique of essential oil application. She is also authorized by NCBTMB to provide CEU for massage therapists for the AromaTouch Technique.
USFWS. Homeowner’s guide to protecting frogs-lawn and garden care. Division of Environmental Contaminants. July, 2000.
USEPA. FIFRA ScientificAdvisory Panel Meeting. June 25–27, 2002.
Wargo J. Our Children’s Toxic Legacy. 1998. Yale University Press.