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Message From Mama Earth: Stay Off the Lawn Chemicals

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Feeling bombarded by all the springtime lawn chemical ads? The hyped products spread enough fertilizer and pesticide to bombard your lawn within an inch of its life and make it dependent on more treatments -- a great way to selling more product. The "junkie" lawn may push up healthy-looking grass, but looks can be deceiving.The bacteria, enzymes, soil structure and nutrients needed to build a hardy, drought-resistant, biodiverse lawn are killed off. Not a good Earth Day present for Mama Earth.

The ultimate greenwash two years ago was when TruGreen tried to co-sponsor the big 40th anniversary of Earth Day, but was removed just one month before the event because it was sued by New York State for $400,000 for chemical violations. It shouldn't have taken legal action to know that a chemical-based lawn company is the anti-thesis to Earth Day. There are many actions we can do to show Mama Earth we still care about the planet and our future on it. One clear message is to go organic with your lawn and garden care. If not completely organic at first, at least use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to take control of your piece of real estate and nurse it back from addiction.

There are many reasons to do so, but as a toxicologist, it is my duty to put in front of you the emerging information about cancer risk. In yet another study, dogs were found to be at higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma (the dog version of Non-Hodkin's Lymphoma) if the yard was treated regularly by a lawn company. Since it's still at the level of association without ironclad proof, the companies have plausible deniability and you probably won't win a court case against them if your dog (or, god forbid, child) gets cancer. But why deal with the possible risk when its easy to just say no to one of the major sources of toxic chemicals most homeowners, children and pets come into contact with -- lawn chemicals. Most people don't realize that more pesticides and fertilizers are applied per acre on residential lawns than on commercial farms. It's pointless to worry about the pesticides in your produce if you hire a commercial lawn company.

To show just how possible it is to cut back, cities and towns across Canada have been banning "Cosmetic Pesticide" uses from its green spaces, tremendously reducing the use of fertilizer and herbicide. And to help you right in your neighborhood, organic lawn care companies have been springing up that use biodiverse methods -- look for companies which know how to replenish the soil with organic "teas" and how to test the soil for what it is missing. Learn proper watering and mowing practices and natural methods at weed control (e.g., corn gluten). Safelawns.org is an excellent resource.

Your lawn will look great and your family will be safer and there won't be days when you can't walk on it because of the pesticides. And oh, yes -- Mama Earth will be a little less stressed. Happy Earth Day.

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