Children have unique vulnerabilities that can lead to significantly greater amounts of pesticide exposure, and increasingly detrimental effects from these exposures, compared to adults. With more frequent hand-to-mouth behavior, children are much more likely to ingest pesticide residues from areas they come in contact with. Their decreased physical size makes even small amounts of pesticide ingestion detrimental to their health, especially during early developmental stages. 1
And of course, children play! Whether it’s recess, sports practice, a trip to the park, or simply playing outside at home, children come in contact with a lot of turf. The chemicals that are sprayed on that turf matter because scientific evidence shows it has an impact on their health. See the body of evidence below.
Good Neighbor Iowa recognizes there are situations where pesticides may be necessary in certain landscapes to protect child health, such as invasive species control or removing poison ivy. However, given the body of evidence, pesticide usage on common turf for cosmetic purposes is unjustifiable.
“Prenatal, household and occupational exposures (maternal and paternal) appear to be the largest risks. …Children’s exposure to pesticides should be limited as much as possible.”
Dogs are highly susceptible to environmental toxins and can act as "canaries in the coal mine" for human health hazards 16 17. Research shows that exposure to herbicide-treated turf is associated with significantly higher bladder cancer risk in dogs.18 A 2013 study found elevated levels of 2,4-D and MCPP (common lawn herbicides) in the urine of dogs in both treated and untreated lawns.18 This suggests that intentional application and pesticide drift from neighbor applications contribute to pet exposure. Furthermore, track-in by an active dog is one of the most significant factors for pesticide intrusion (transport) indoors. 11
The warnings on containers of common lawn weed killers often say: “This product is toxic to fish and aquatic organisms.” And yet, some of the herbicides applied to turf do end up in local streams. Monitoring studies have shown that pesticides used on lawns are detected in urban streams, and often in higher concentration than in streams draining from agricultural regions. 14
After the province Ontario, Canada, banned cosmetic lawn pesticides, a study found that weed killer concentrations in urban streams were significantly reduced. 15
Bees are a keystone pollinator species. However, urban bee populations may be undermined due to pesticide exposure. Pesticides, including both insecticides and herbicides, aim to diminish biodiversity -- the lifeline of pollinators. It is critical that we safeguard their habitat by maintaining urban biodiversity and providing spaces in which plants essential to pollinators’ health can grow and flourish. When lawns are managed without pesticides, naturally occurring flowers and plants can serve as a natural wildlife habitat for urban bee species. 19