Isn't it funny how much children love dandelions? They can spend a whole afternoon blowing the seeds off into the wind, making wishes and chasing after them. For many adults, though, dandelions are The Enemy of The Perfect Lawn, and that enemy must be stopped with weed-killers. However, in our efforts to have the greenest, weed-free lawns possible, we're also releasing poisonous chemicals into the air we breathe and the water we drink. Chemicals that have already been banned in Canada and Europe because they can lead to various forms of cancer, birth defects, liver damage, kidney damage and more. There are very sobering reasons why you, your children, and your pets are not supposed to set foot on lawns with the little signs warning you they've been sprayed. The problem is that the signs warn you to stay off the lawn for 48 hours, but you are far from "in the clear" after that time period is up.
Years ago, I watched environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on TV, talking about how we all live in a closed system--how you can't just wash things down the drain and expect them to magically disappear. As Kennedy explained, if you spray chemicals on your lawn, the rain washes them into the gutters, which carries them to your local drinking water system, and guess what? Those poisons come right back to you when you turn on your tap. Every year, my town issues the required report from the EPA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on our drinking water, and I'm always shocked by the allowable percentages of chemicals in our tap water.
I recently interviewed Dr. Claire Gervais, Associate Professor at the Department of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Gervais co-founded the Healthy Lawn Team in Madison, a group of concerned citizens out to spread the word about the harmfulness of lawn chemicals. Said Dr. Gervais, "When I was pregnant with my second child, I couldn't help but notice the lawn care pesticide signs that were up at the family practice clinic, where I was getting my prenatal care. I had read about endocrine disruptors in Theo Colborn's book, Our Stolen Future, and was acutely aware of the contradiction between our health care organization's mission to do no harm and the business mission to attract patients by having a weed-free lawn."