Seasonal Allergies and Asthma are a concern for many as we approach Spring pollen season where environmental allergens are abundant. However pollen allergies may not be the only thing we need to worry about. Chemical weed killers, pesticides, and other lawn care products are a menace to the earth and detrimental to our health. Many of the symptoms we attribute to seasonal allergies and asthma could be due to a chemical sensitivity to the chemicals lurking in our yards, being tracked into our homes and absorbed into our foods.
Disturbing Facts About Pesticide (Over)Use
Americans dump approximately seventy million tons of fertilizer and seventy to ninety million pounds of pesticides on their lawns each year. 40-60% of nitrogen from fertilizer runs off or leaches away, ending up in ground or surface water, including wells. 60-70 million birds die from pesticide poisoning each year in the US alone. If birds are dying, pesticides must be toxic to humans on some level!
Weed Killers as Endocrine Disrupters
A study released and reported on CNN this week, “Pesticide inhibits frogs’ sex lives“, finds that a common herbicide, atrazine, can emasculate male frogs and turn some into females, causing amphibian declines around the world. The scientists involved in the study believe that the pesticide interferes with endocrine hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. The effect of atrazine on humans is still not known, however it could pose a risk to reproductive health. The weed killer Atrazine was banned by the European Union in 2004, because it was showing up harmful levels in drinking water.
Pesticides and Asthma
BeyondPesticides.org whose mission is to rid the world of toxic pesticides, explores the connection between pesticide use and asthma in their article, “Asthma, Pesticides and Children“,
“Although no single study can conclusively prove that a certain pesticide causes asthma, numerous studies have found compelling evidence that exposure to pesticides is correlated with higher rates of asthma. One research focus has been on farmers and pesticide applicators, groups typically exposed to higher levels of pesticides than the average population. Many studies have shown that this population has higher rates of asthma and other respiratory problems due to their use of pesticides. Yet occupational pesticide exposure is only one piece of the puzzle—household and community exposure to pesticides can also lead to respiratory problems.
An early study done in the 1960s in Hawaii found that frequent household use of insecticides is correlated with an increased prevalence of respiratory disorders, including asthma and chronic bronchitis. The majority of the pesticides used were bug sprays for mosquitoes, flies, and cockroaches.
A landmark study done in 2004 shows that not only do environmental exposures lead to above-average asthma rates among children, but that timing of exposure is crucial. The researchers studied over 4000 school-aged children in California and discovered that children exposed to herbicides during their first year of life are four and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with asthma before the age of five; toddlers exposed to insecticides are more than twice as likely to get asthma. This study further clarifies the fact that young infants and toddlers are most susceptible to the harmful effects of pesticides on the respiratory system.”
Holistic Approach to Lawn Care!
Much like BioVeda Health and Wellness Centers holistic approach to health care, natural and organic lawn care takes a holistic, preventative view rather than reacting to various problems using chemical pesticides or herbicides. By building healthy soil many of the problems with lawns are solved, eliminating the need for poisons and harsh reactionary measures. So, before you reach for toxic herbicides and pesticides, consider some of the following organic methods for killing weeds and overall yard maintenance:
- Vinegar – a powerful, safe alternative to chemical herbicides, vinegar requires precise application as it will kill grass and other plants. Make sure you apply directly to the base of the weed or paint it on with a brush. You may need to apply several times to get the job done.
- Corn Gluten – A nontoxic byproduct of corn processing, corn gluten kills weed seedlings within days of application. It also adds nitrogen to your soil. Just one application, before weeds emerge, reduced weed survival by 60%, according to research at Iowa State University. After several years, this method provides as much as 90% weed control.
- Time-released, Water Insoluble Nitrogen Fertilizer – These fertilizers are less likely to burn your lawn with excess nitrogen, and slow-release allows the roots to absorb the nutrients as needed. In most instances, choose fertilizers containing at least 35% – 50% of their nitrogen supply in the “slow-release” form, such as sulfur-coated urea, methylene urea or various natural organic products. With fast-acting fertilizers, some nutrients are washed away with watering or rain, and the wasted fertilizer pollutes ground water supplies.
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