I was struck by an article in the May 10 edition of the New York Times, in which the author, Diane Lewis, describes the growing dangers and consequences of the myriad of toxic chemicals we apply to our gardens, and especially our lawns. And just for the record, Lewis isn’t some well-intentioned hippie chick trying to get us all to “go green.” She is a physician, and the founder of the Great Healthy Yard Project.
The evidence is growing that these chemicals, which we don’t even need to apply, are entering our groundwater – and therefore our drinking water – and messing with our endocrine systems. It’s the cumulative effect that scientists are focusing on now. Endocrine disrupters have been linked to cancers and infertility, among other things. And bottled water isn’t any safer, because it, too, comes from groundwater.
But the chemical marketing is relentless and, unfortunately successful. The Roundup commercial equating the eradication of dandelions from a driveway to the manly defense of home and family is absurd, but the dudes are buying it. Glyphosate, the chemical in Roundup, is one of the most widely-used chemicals in American homes today.
The article in the Times quotes the US Fish and Wildlife Service as saying that “homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals than farmers do.” And we don’t need to. Simply growing clover in your lawn fixes nitrogen and makes it greener. Letting the lawn grow a bit longer before mowing it and leaving the clippings to nourish the turf are also effective. And as for finicky plants like hybrid tea roses or fruits such as apples that require spraying in order to perform, I am done with those.
This is a growing public health issue, and something we should be paying very close attention to.