Letter to the Editor: Herbicides unnecessary
A 1991 "New York Times" article ("Senate Panel Says that Lawn Chemicals Harm Many," 5/10/91) reported findings by a U.S. Senate subcommittee that lawn chemicals are hazardous. The article described how champion ice skater Christina Locek became blind after insecticide spray from a neighbor's yard drifted into Locek's yard while she was sunbathing. The spray also killed Locek's dog and cat.
A "Washington Post" article ("Lethal Grass." 9/16/91) described how Navy Lieutenant George Prior, shortly after playing golf, developed headache, rash, high fever and vomiting. His skin blistered and peeled away, his organs failed, and he died of toxic epidermal necrolysis caused by exposure to a fungicide that had been applied to the golf course.
People, particularly children, don't always observe warnings to avoid chemically treated lawns for 24 hours. Dogs, cats, birds and squirrels can't read these warnings. Besides insects and worms, other living beings also suffer and die from lawn treatments.
Are lawns really safe 24 hours after chemical applications? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged the possibility that most popular lawn and garden chemicals pose continuing health risks.
One study showed that farmers who use 2, 4-D, a widely sold weed killer, have up to seven times higher than average risk for developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer. Another study published in "The Journal of the National Cancer Institute" indicated that dogs whose families used 2. 4-D to destroy lawn weeds are twice as likely to develop lymphoma. That chemical and other herbicides have also been linked to leukemia and to human birth defects.
Lawn chemicals often travel via toxic clouds or streams to areas beyond one's treated lawn, and are a major cause of water pollution.
Herbicides kill clover. However, the root nodules of clover contain bacteria beneficial to the lawn. Unwanted dandelions can be removed manually ( In fact chemical free dandelions make a tasty soup or salad).
Nature itself usually controls insect populations. Insecticides kill natural predators as well as pests. The surviving pests become pesticide-resistant while their predators do so much more slowly. The balance of nature is upset and the pest insects can multiply out of control.
Activity by worms and other micro-organisms enhance lawn health. If you support this activity by avoiding lawn chemicals, grass roots will be stronger. After lawn mowing, grass clippings or ground-up leaves become good natural fertilizers.
Chemical fertilizers are unnecessary.