Potomac Americans have been led to believe they need poisons to keep their yard pretty and pest-free. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we use 67 million tons of chemicals on our lawns each year, dropping over $700 million for the privilege of contaminating our surroundings and ourselves. Homeowners use 10 times the amount of pesticides per acre that farmers do. And toxic particles can drift several feet, or even many miles, depending on the method of application and other factors.
There are currently few legal rights against pesticide drift, despite the mounting evidence that these pesticides are killing us and our pets, and poisoning our environment. The current regulatory system favors pesticide applicators and manufacturers and places the burden of proof on victims of pesticide poisoning.
Rather than take the rational approach and get the dangerous stuff off the market, as the folks in Canada have been systematically doing in the past 20 years, Americans just race to fix one problem by replacing it with a potentially larger problem. The view, clearly, is that “science will cure all ills” when a heavy dose of common sense would clearly be the best path.
The good news to report is that the Canadian example is not being wholly ignored. Bills in at least two states are following the lead set by New York last year with its Child Safe Playing Field Act.
Meanwhile, the proof of the factors in why we should ban these products continues to stack up from scientific sources. Here are just a few of the reasons to not use the weed killer known as Roundup, for example (most from SafeLawns.org), but applies to other pesticides as well:
HUMAN HEALTH — The product can cause an increase in human disease due to the way Roundup causes restriction of nutrients such as calcium (which affects bone density), iron (blood), manganese, zinc (liver, kidney) and copper, magnesium (brain). Tests show an “inert” ingredient in Roundup, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, kills human cells. Traces of Roundup found on corn and soybeans, among other crops, can cause cell damage in humans.
PLANT HEALTH — Roundup increases plant stress and disease due to its interaction with biology in the soil. In some cases, the plant toxicity can have residual negative impacts on animals and humans.
NUTRIENT REDUCTION — Widespread use of the product reduces the nutrient value of food because the Roundup binds and inhibits the movement of essential micronutrients.
MUTANT WEEDS — After nearly four decades of use, many areas of the country are seeing an increase in new species of weeds resistant to Roundup.
PESTICIDE RELIANCE — Since the introduction of “Roundup Ready” genetically modified plants in 1996, use of Roundup has increased exponentially. Uses of other pesticides have also increased due to additional weed, insect and disease pressure caused by over reliance on Roundup.
YIELD REDUCTION — Farmers generally see a significant decrease in the yields of fields after the first two years using Roundup.
SPECIES REDUCTION — Roundup causes the destruction of important soil flora, plants that are important in nitrogen fixation, mineralization, and other soil fertility processes.
WATER QUALITY — Roundup causes increased leaching of phosphorus and other nutrients into waterways. Additionally, scientists have identified an emerging class of contaminants in the Potomac River, called endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), a variety of natural and manmade chemicals from many sources which cannot be removed from our drinking water.
ADDITIONAL GMOs — As more and more weeds mutate and become resistant to Roundup, the pesticide industry races to develop more genetically modified plants. News out of the University of Missouri this week states that researchers there plan to genetically modify plants to resist the herbicide 2,4-D, a product that has been shown in peer-reviewed scientific journals to increase the likelihood of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental effects, as well as water contamination and toxicity to aquatic organisms.
Eighty percent of our neighbors to the north, the Canadian population, now live under the auspices of bans of products like weed ‘n feed and Roundup. That begs the question even more loudly: If Canada can ban pesticides without appreciable consequences, when will the U.S., Maryland and Montgomery County begin to catch up?