Last week my parents received this postcard in the mail.
Being that my children play in my parent’s yard quite often, I called the given phone numbers. Truth be told, I would have called no matter what!
I first called the New York State Department of Health Center for Environmental Health and spoke with a friendly chemist named Tom. Here is the gist of the conversation:
Me: Does everyone receive this kind of notice when neighbors are having something applied to their lawn?
Tom: (In regards to NYS) – If you live in a county that has adopted the Neighbor Notification Law and the chemicals being used fall under that law then you will receive notification. (You can view the details of this law here: Department of Environmental Conversation)
Me: These chemicals being used by the companies required to give notification, are they sold in stores for people like me to buy and apply myself?
Tom: Many of them are, yes, like 2,4-D (a type of chemical).
Me: So if my neighbors are applying them themselves I wouldn’t know it?
Me: So in general, what do you recommend to do to take precaution when being applied commercially?
Tom: During application, close all windows, keep children inside, cover lawn furniture and anything else in your yard that you do not want the chemicals getting on. Why don’t you give me the number of the product being applied so that I can look it up?
At this point I gave the number and we found that it DID NOT match the description of what the postcard says is being sprayed, Ortho Weed-B-Gon Pro. Tom assured me that this happens from time to time and that the number given is what was probably being sprayed. He then told me the chemical names of the toxic ingredients, 2,4-D, Mecoprop and Dicamba.
Me: Does the application of these chemicals on my neighbor’s property pose a danger to my family?
Tom: IF applied during the right conditions and IF applied right, according to the instructions, there should not be enough to cause a health effect in humans.
At this point I am thinking that that’s two too many IFs for me! I was also thinking about the typical homeowner applying these chemicals without understanding the importance of following the directions to the ‘T’. For instance, I am related to quite a few people who do not like to read directions. On top of that, there are people who think that more is better, so if the directions say only apply a certain amount, they apply double – thinking that their lawn will be better off, and not thinking about the consequences to the living things that travel on or around the lawn.
Tom (Sensing I was uneasy): IF (there’s that IF again!) done properly, it should be alright. We get a lot of calls about this stuff. Some people would never use these chemicals on their property no matter what. Others want their weeds gone and are comfortable with them being applied.
Me: I would NEVER use them on my property
Tom: Let me tell you about how the toxicity of these chemicals are determined: A bunch of rats are placed in a small space and are exposed to a whole lot of the chemical in a short amount of time. If a lot of rats die it is considered toxic. If only a small amount of rats die, it’s not that toxic.
I really think Tom was trying to make me feel better by telling me this – it only caused me to be more appalled.
Me: Okay, that didn’t make me feel any better.
Tom: I can’t tell you that it’s completely without risk.
At this point I thanked Tom for his time and we hung up.
Once digesting this information, I called the second number, the one for the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network, just to see if they had anything different to say. I spoke with a man named Colton, who didn’t offer up the information as freely as did Tom. He did let me know that the chemicals being sprayed on the lawn of my parent’s neighbors is of the HIGHEST TOXICITY LEVEL. I asked about how the level is determined and he again told me how it is tested on animals and that the number it is given in regards to toxicity is based on the amount of animals that die. The one question I thought to ask of Colton that I did not ask of Tom was this:
Me: You say that the chemical is dangerous until it is dry. I have children who put things in their mouths. Lets say their ball gets a piece of treated grass on it once it’s dry and it goes into of of their mouths – it’s not dangerous?
Colton: It IS dangerous and you want to try and keep that from happening. When we say it’s not dangerous when dry, it simply means that when you walk on the grass, the chemicals shouldn’t stick to your shoes, only the grass.
So, of course, the piece of grass with chemicals on it could stick to a shoe and enter my house. Great….
Colton then told me he can e mail me the fact sheet on two of the chemicals being used in the formulation being sprayed. He said that because there are thousands of active ingredients that fact sheets haven’t been made for all, so he didn’t have one for the third chemical, but could send me information. I am not including the information on the fact sheets in this post because I already covered a lot of the dangers caused by these chemicals and others like them in this post: The Bad and The Ugly: A Look at Lawn Care Products
I share this information with all of you to raise awareness. These chemicals pose dangers to the health our our families and our pets, even when not used on our own properties. Please think twice before using them and help others to learn about them as well!
On a side note: I am glad that at least there is some kind of law in place when it comes to some applications of pesticides. However, if you notice, this postcard was sent out by a Scotts Lawn Care Service. Scott’s has been in trouble in the past for not revealing important information regarding chemicals in its products. I would think that they would be careful about taking the proper steps so as not to get into any more trouble. That being said, I just don’t know that other landscaping services are following this law and letting people know when they are applying chemicals on a nearby lawn. Let’s face it, there are companies that are run off the books – are they really playing by the rules?
Along with this information I provide in this post, please note that a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute finds that household and garden pesticide use can increase the risk of childhood leukemia as much as seven-fold AND studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer and soft tissue sarcoma (Beyond Pesticides) – (Click Here for an Important Fact Sheet).