Is the "Perfect" Lawn Worth The Risk?



"Synthetic Pesticide" is the overall term for synthetically-produced herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. These chemicals are toxins, the most common of which have been associated with risks to human and pet health (cancer, neurological problems, birth defects, endocrine disruption, asthma & more) and risks to the environment (can run-off into waterways; can volatize in the air, contribute to carbon emissions). And, testing of these products seems to be limited. Moreover, while pesticides kill weeds, they also kill the nutrients in the soil, which can lead to more weeds and pests.

  • Pesticides are being banned due to health concerns. Ontario and Quebec and several other provinces have banned their sale and use. Over 40 NJ towns have declared their public parks pesticide-free. Pesticides were banned on school grounds in New York (day care through 12th grade) and  Connecticut (K through 8th grade). Similar legislation is being considered in New Jersey, The Safe Playing Fields Act, and has already gained 67 legislative co-sponsors.

  • EPA says pesticides are never "safe" to use. It is illegal to claim so. Because of the inherent toxicity of chemical pesticides, the EPA, the Federal Trade Commission and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection prohibit the lawn pesticide industry from making claims as to the safety of a pesticide or its ingredients, even if used as directed. Prohibited are statements such as "safe," "safe when used as directed", "non-poisonous," "harmless," and "nontoxic to humans and pets." So, while these products may be registered with the EPA, that is not the same as making any implication of safety                     

  • Children and pets are particularly vulnerable to hazards associated with pesticides

    • No pesticide has ever been tested on children to determine it’s effects. While inhaling and dermal exposures are the most common, no one has ever tested the health effects of pesticide residues that remain on grass even when dry.

    • We do know that children are unable to detoxify from the chemicals as easily, as their organs are still developing. Pound for pound, children take in more pesticides relative to their body weight, because their detoxification system is not fully developed, and because their internal organ systems are still developing and are more vulnerable. 2

    • The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a report calling for a reduction in pesticide use tied to children's health risks: "Epidemiological evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems. Related animal toxicology studies provide supportive biological plausibility for these findings."

    • Pets may be at risk for pesticide exposure since they play and sleep on grass, and sometimes ingest it as they lick themselves. Study finds that dogs exposed to herbicide-treated lawns and gardens can double their chance of developing canine lymphoma. 3

    • Read a great fact sheet on Pesticides and Pets.And this website for more information.

  • Pesticide product testing is limited

    Hear what Dan Rather's report reveals about the faulty  pesticide product testing process (as well as the hazards of certain pesticides to the honey bee which is critical to our food system).

    Read what one citizen discovered as he examined the EPA's testing process.

    • The U.S. EPA states that "most pesticides, despite having an EPA registration, have not been adequately tested to determine their effects on people or the environment".

    • Testing that does happen is done by the product manufacturers, not by the EPA. There is no third party review of the manufacturer’s testing. 

    • The testing that is done by manufacturers only looks at a single chemical, and doesn’t take into account the combined effect of all of the substances found in pesticide products.

    • Pesticide products contain both "active" and "inerts" or "other ingredients" (meaning undisclosed ingredients). At this time toxicity is unknown and not reported. EPA is considering asking for full disclosure of inerts because they realize these products are of concern.

  • 2,4-D, the most commonly used pesticide in New Jersey (often as a "weed and feed product), contains half the ingredients in Agent Orange (the chemical used in World War II). Studies show that exposure to 2,4-D is associated with neurological disorders, reproductive problems, kidney/liver damage, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers, and disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system 1.

  • The National Resources Defense Council is suing the EPA for their failure to respond to a 2008 petition to cancel all registrations and revoke all tolerances of this known neurotoxin and ingredient in Agent Orange.  Read what a Senior Scientist from the NRDC says.

  • Certain pesticides have been found to be poisonous to the important honey-bee.

    • The European Union bans neonicotinoid pesticides used to treat lawn grubs; they have been found to be highly toxic to honey bees. They are still legal to use in the U.S. Sign the petition here.

    • View this video with Dan Rather which also speaks to how the EPA registration process fails to protect people and the environment

  • Read more about the risks here and here. Including:

      • Weed and Feed Products Threaten Human Health, and are Especially Dangerous For Children

      • Weed and Feed Hurts Dogs and Wildlife

      • Weed and Feed Pollutes Drinking Water Sources

      • Local Governments Are Calling For a Ban on Weed and Feed

      • We Don’’t Need Weed and Feed

Environmental Concerns

  • US Geological Survey, 2007, found every body of water tested in NJ had evidence of pesticide contamination.
  • Chemical Fertilizers are being restricted due to environmental concerns. In 2011, New Jersey passed the nation's strongest fertilizer law that restricts the use of chemical fertilizers because the run-off is damaging our local water systems. Moreover, these fertilizers contribute to green-house gas emissions as they require fossel fuels to manufacture and ship
  • Moreover, manufacturing and shipping fertilizer (and pesticides) requires the burning of fossil-fuels. One source says a 40 lb bag of fertilizer requires 3 gallons of fuel to produce and ship. Read more here.
  • A new gas powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour. (source: epa). 

People are taking note and the use of natural lawn care practices is growing. It is the fastest growing segment of the green industry. The National Gardening Association data shows that the market for organic products is expected to grow to 50 percent of the marketplace by 2013.


  1. Extension Toxicology Network (ETN). 1996. Pesticide Information Profiles for 2,4-D.; Beyond Pesticides. 2004. 2,4-D ChemWatch factsheet. Cox, C. 1999. Herbicide Factsheet: 2,4-D:Toxicology, Part 2. Journal of Pesticide Reform 19(2): 14-19.
  2. Landrigan, P.J., L Claudio, SB Markowitz, et al. 1999. Environmental Health Perspectives 110:1081-1085.
  3. Dogs Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1991

To learn more about pesticides and their impacts go to: