This is the time of year when yards and gardens are getting our full attention. A lush green lawn can be a beauty to behold and seems like a natural playground for toddlers and children. But how many people who add environmental chemicals to treat their lawns really know what they're spreading or spraying?
Pesticides are often thought of as only insecticides, but herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers with weed killer (Think "Weed and Feed") are all pesticides.
Stores are currently packed with bags and liquids containing all of the above and are marketed as necessary for a beautiful lawn.
However, not promoted are the safety hazards of these products where children and pets are concerned. Bags and sprays typically carry the obligatory warnings about keeping the product out of the hands and mouths of children or pets – but let's face it; that's a given.
Children, with their smaller bodies and still developing brain, liver and immune system are at a much greater risk of developing serious pesticide related health problems. They also spend more time in direct contact with grass and dirt – and with younger children, putting both in their mouths.
Researchers have shown an association between certain environmental chemicals and childhood cancers such as leukemia and neuroblastoma (the most common brain cancer), the latest research shows that exposure to these toxic chemicals may contribute to the rise in childhood disorders such as autism and ADHD. A recent study shows that kids with ADHD have more pesticide metabolites in their urine.
Think about what pesticides are designed to do. They eliminate weeds, insects, molds and fungus. They kill stuff. This means they are poisonous to many living organisms that include plants, wildlife and humans.
While playing or crawling on a grassy lawn may not provide enough pesticide to actually kill someone, chemicals can be absorbed through the skin, nose and mouth and settle in various organs. Children and pets are at a higher risk for health effects from exposure to pesticides than adults.
Are chemically treated lawns safe once they've had a chance to dry or sit for a couple of days? Many chemicals are designed to remain active anywhere from a month to over a year.
Can you still have a verdant lawn without using pesticides? Yes. There are alternative methods available; agricultural corn gluten and organic compost are a couple of options that work in tandem with plants and soils.
Not all organic treatments are 100 percent safe after being directly applied to the soil or plants. But they do tend to breakdown faster and are less harmful when spread. Using a mask and gloves are recommended when applying just about anything to your yard.
Children are simply more susceptible to harmful chemicals than adults because of their developing bodies and immune systems.
Next time the conversation rolls around about adding chemicals to treat the yard or garden – think about your child's health before you make a decision.
Sources: Clare Gervais, MD, http://blogs.uwhealth.org/kids/2012/06/lawn-chemicals-and-kids-should-parents-be-concerned/