Recently we witnessed another lawn company applying a synthetic pre emergent fertilizer to a residential property, and leave without cleaning the sidewalks. The problem here is that the excess fertilizer will wash into neighbors yards, or into the street during the next rain and then can pollute waterways.
There was a time when pesticides were a staple for a healthy, pest-free lawn. That was a simpler time, when we knew less about the short and long term effects that chemicals had on our environment and our bodies. And while society has changed, many of the chemical formulas for pesticides have not.
About Pesticide Pollution
In order for a pesticide to work, it has to have some movement through the different layers of soil. The pollution occurs when the chemicals move beyond the intended treatment area. This can happen through wind and other forms of erosion, through humans or animals tracking the poison on foot, or by water runoff.
On the subject of run-off, of the 30 most commonly used pesticide chemicals, 24 are toxic to fish and aquatic wildlife, 23 have the potential to leach, and 17 have been detected in the groundwater. The EPA has also included these chemicals in lists of unregulated drinking water contaminants. Synthetic pesticides contain chemicals that cause explosions of algae growth once they reach the water. This algae sucks all the oxygen out of water.
Pesticides often get tracked into homes on the bottom of shoes or via the air. In fact, the EPA has found that the level of air pollution inside a home can be two to five times greater than the pollution in the air outside. This can be largely due to pesticide pollution. These harmful chemicals absorb into soft surfaces like furniture and carpet, settle onto hard surfaces, or linger in the air and are ranked as one of the EPA’s four most dangerous environmental health risks in the United States.
Just as pesticide pollution can linger in the environment for a long time, it can also accumulate in the human body and have lasting health effects (many of which are not being researched or reported on). Pesticide chemicals can lead to birth defects, mutations, lasting health conditions like asthma, and damage to the endocrine system. The chemicals used in pesticides have been shown to increase a person’s risk for cancer (especially cancers driven by hormones, such as breast as prostate cancer).
Humans aren’t the only ones who get hurt by pesticide pollution. Of the 30 most commonly used pesticides,16 are toxic to birds, 11 are deadly to bees and other pollinators, and we’ve already mentioned what they can do to aquatic life.
Pesticide pollution damages soil for years down the line. It can leach nutrients out of the soil, but more importantly it kills the organisms that work so hard to make your soil healthy and rich: earthworms, helpful insects, and microorganisms that aid in decomposition. In addition, the pesticide pollution can inhibit nitrogen fixation, which is what makes plants grow taller and stronger. It also can damage root growth.
Homeowners’ lawns and gardens receive more pesticides per year than agricultural fields do. Using pesticides and herbicides has been found to reduce the trace minerals that crops yield, so there has been a movement for farmers to stop using them. Homeowners, especially those with vegetable gardens or fruit trees, should consider switching to a more organic way to treat their lawns in order to avoid pesticide pollution and negative effects on their plants and homes.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are among the most dangerous of the pesticide pollution we face today. POPs accumulate much more quickly than they degrade, and can even concentrate at up to 70,000 times what was originally concentrated. These pollutants can literally get worse the longer they are in the environment!
Many common problems that people use pesticides to treat have simple (and inexpensive) home or organic remedies available that are safer for the environment. In addition, there are plenty of good lawn practices that help prevent pests in the first place. Vinegar, red pepper sauce, and ivory soap are just a few of the healthier alternatives that can help keep your lawn and garden safe. Do some research and consider the alternatives, and if you are applying pesticides please be sure to do so safely to minimize harm and pesticide pollution.
Not only does Omaha Organics Lawn Care use products that are safe, we also always clean the excess product off of sidewalks and driveways to avoid unwanted runoff. Go Green Today!
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