Are Lawn Care Services Worth It?

During the early spring through summer, our neighborhood always receives many solicitations for lawn chemical contracts. TruGreen (Chemlawn), Bay Country, Scotts and others use terms such as “organic,” “natural-based,” and “healthy,” plus pictures of children or pets lying in lush green grass. One might assume from these messages that their services are safe. That assumption is incorrect.

Traditional weed control products are not safe for humans, animals, or our environment. The above-mentioned (and most of the others too) are using brand names such as Dimension, Escalade, and Ortho Weed B Gon in addition to fertilizers and soil conditioners. The chemicals and additives in weed control products – even in small amounts – are responsible for serious health and environmental issues. Danger is also present in vapor breathed after application and in residue left on the lawn (that gets tracked into your house), even for passersby, but **most especially for children.**

Common chemicals present in traditional herbicides are 2,4-D, Mecocrop, and Dicamba. These chemicals are linked to endocrine disruption (permanently disrupting hormones and development), dioxin byproducts, abnormal cell division, DNA damage, and cancers. They persist in soil and groundwater and cause significant disruption to downstream animals and ecosystems. Included in the mixtures are ingredients lumped into the “inert” category. “Inert” in this case does not mean “inactive,” but instead covers a wide range of additives that are typically meant to extend longevity of the product or its killing power. It is not required that manufacturers list these extra ingredients, nor that they, or anyone else, provide safety data related to the final chemical mixture in the bottle or bag.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency relies almost exclusively on materials provided by the manufacturers when approving and classifying chemical registrations. Other governments around the globe have recognized that conflict of interest and large gaps in knowledge make lawn chemicals a serious concern for individuals and our environment. In 2003, and updated in 2006, Quebec created a very clear Pesticide Management Code:
Quebec has banned public and private use of 2,4-D and Mecoprop for lawn maintenance. In many areas of Canada, public and private sectors report success using alternatives like corn gluten meal and vinegar-based weed control products.

I urge you to do your own research and to make informed and mindful choices about chemicals. A great way to start whenever considering a service like this is to get specific lists of products they will use and look up their Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that list ingredients and manufacturer guidance on handling and safety. From there you can look up safety data for individual active chemicals which is enough to engender concern in most parents. If you want help, contact me off list.

There are many methods to care for our lawns and gardens that do not have as many negative effects. Some other resources are available here:

Best wishes and health to you and yours.

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