Posted by Claudia Grazioso on October 7, 2011
We used to have a lawn. Then we had kids, and our backyard was reduced to some brave, strong-hearted blades of grass ringing a large section of packed mud. Last spring, we decided to do something about it, and my husband dutifully drove off to Home Depot and came back with two solid bags of steer poop. So then we had a packed dirt yard covered in poop. (It just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?) Needless to say, I developed a hardcore case of Lawn Envy.
Over the summer we visited some friends, all of whom had lush, gorgeous, springy lawns that my kids loved running on. One morning, we went out for our daily cartwheeling-sommersaulting session and as I watched my kids tumble and roll across a velvety emerald expanse, a small yellow sign caught my eye. I don’t remember the exact words, but there was a skull and crossbones, and the words “DANGER” and “POISON.” Apparently those lovely landscapes come at quite a price.
I, of course, started screaming like the parents in “JAWS” at my kids, who stared at me in confusion as I ushered them off the lawn. Lawn that had, apparently, been treated with chemicals so toxic you shouldn’t really even walk on it. This, of course, made me a little curious about things like pesticides and fungicides and weed killers that most people spray in their yards regularly.
It turns out that they are pretty bad for people — and even worse for kids. Probably since they are always cartwheeling, crawling and tumbling around on the ground, most kids experience up to 50 percent of their lifetime exposure to pesticides before the age of five. This is really bad news, because children’s organs are still developing; they’re not yet fully up to the hard work of detoxifying and so kids are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects from exposure to toxic chemicals.
According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, exposure to household and garden pesticides can increase a child’s chance of developing leukemia seven fold. It can also increase the chances of developing other kinds of cancers. Glysophosate, a chemical used in commercial brands like Round Up, has been linked to an increased risk for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. In fact, out of 99 human studies on the connection between lymphoma and pesticides, 75 of them found a causal link. Additionally, the weed-and-feed lawn care products – you know, the ones that are supposed to make gardening easier by fertilizing and killing weeds with one squirt – have been found to increase infertility, miscarriage and birth defects on laboratory animals, even at relatively low doses.
So what’s a parent with Lawn Envy to do? Don’t laugh, but we swear by steer poop. I’ll be darned if our lawn isn’t making a comeback. And all I have to worry about is our yard stinking for a few weeks out of the year.