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Perfect Lawns, is it worth it?
by: Kevin Doberstein
Have you ever been driving down the road with the windows open going past a golf course or a field and then you get a strange smell? A chemical type of odor? Or go walking in the country and notice a large area, usually a field, all brown with dead grass. And next to it, alive green grasses and shrubs? Chances are you smell a herbicide being used or you are seeing what it can do to vegetation.

Then you start to wonder. Are those chemicals getting into the water table? Is wildlife eating the “treated” vegetation and insects tainted with the chemicals? Or maybe we are taking in the toxins and not even realizing it. It could possibly be in the foods we eat, the air we are breathing everyday or the water that we are drinking.

DDT is a colorless contact insecticide that is very toxic. It became banned in the early 1970’s. Gaylord Nelson, a great environmentalist while in office in the state of Wisconsin diliengtly worked to get DDT banned in Wisconsin.

DDT even though restricted is still used in Mexico to control malaria. The National Institute of Public Health of Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico concluded from a study that the use of DDT has been linked to breast cancer in Mexico. In another study done by the University of Michigan, it was found that chemical factory workers that made DDT also had a high risk of pancreatic cancer from the overexposure of DDT. Unfortunately, DDT is still being manufactured and used in tropical areas for malaria control.

Below are some of the herbicides used today. This is not a complete listing of all of the herbicides on the market. The short term and long term side effects is based that the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) goes over a certain marker for parts per billion (ppb) in the water. For example Simazine is 4 ppb or 4 parts per billion in drinking water.

Simazine:
Common Trade names: Herbazine, Herbex, Surflan
General Uses: Corn Crops, Christmas Trees
Amount Used Annually: 4.8 billion pounds estimated in 1985
Short Term health Effects: weight loss, changes in blood
Long Term Health Effects: tremors, damage to testes, kidneys, liver, thyroid, cancer
Ground Water Implications: It may leach to ground water. It can last from a few months to years.
(EPA Consumer Fact Sheet)

Picloram:
Common Trade names: Agent White, Tordon
General Uses: Control annual weeds
Amount Used Annually: 300,000 pounds estimated in 1982
Short Term health Effects: weight loss, damage to the nervous system
Long Term Health Effects: liver damage
Ground Water Implications: It may leach to ground water. It can last from a few months to years
(EPA Consumer Fact Sheet)

Glyphosate:
Common Trade names: Roundup, Sonic, Rodeo, Tumbleweed,
General Uses: Used on many food crops and roadsides
Amount Used Annually: 18.7 million pounds recently
Short Term health Effects: congestion of the lungs, increases breathing rate
Long Term Health Effects: kidney damage, reproductive effects
Ground Water Implications: It strongly adheres to the soil with little potential for leaching to ground water.
(EPA Consumer Fact Sheet)

Endothall:
Common Trade names:Accelerate, Endothall Turf Herbicide, Herbicide 273,
General Uses: Used on many food crops and control aquatic weeds
Amount Used Annually: 1.5 million pounds in 1982
Short Term health Effects: depressed breathing and increase heart rate
Long Term Health Effects: increase size of some organs.
Ground Water Implications: It can leach through the soil into the ground water.
(EPA Consumer Fact Sheet)

Dinoseb:
Common Trade names:Dow Selective Weed Killer, Hel-fire, Caldon, Knox-weed, Premerge,
General Uses: used for cereal crops
Amount Used Annually: 6.2 million pounds in 1982
Short Term health Effects: sweating, mood swings, headache
Long Term Health Effects: decreased body and thyroid weight, degeneration of testes,.
Ground Water Implications: It can leach through the soil into the ground water. Degrades very slowly.
(EPA Consumer Fact Sheet)

Atrazine:
Common Trade names:Aatex, Candex, Atred, Cyazin, Griffex Primatol,
General Uses: used for corn and soybean crops
Amount Used Annually: No figures are known, 2nd highest herbicide used
Short Term health Effects: congestion of the heart, lungs, and kidneys, low blood pressure, muscle spasms, weight loss, damage to adrenal glands
Long Term Health Effects: weight loss, cardiovascular damage, retinal and muscle degeneration, and cancer
Ground Water Implications: It can leach through the soil into the ground water. Degrades very slowly. Very powerful herbicide.
(EPA Consumer Fact Sheet)

Taking in consideration that municipalities have their water tested on a regular basis, this does not take into account the urban and rural areas with its own private wells. Generally that is where a lot of herbicide is used for crops. Also in the city locations one has to take in account the air you breathe.

About the Author:
Kevin Doberstein enjoys wildlife and nature while hiking in the Wisconsin great outdoors. He is also the owner of Nature Boy Natural Images This web site displays outdoor wildlife and nature photography.
He also has the Wisconsin Recreation Outdoors and Wildlife blog
The Wisconsin Outdoor Recreation and Wildlife Blog is for promoting and protecting nature and wildlife resources in the state of Wisconsin.

If you cite this article, use this description for reference:

Doberstein, Kevin 2005, Perfect Lawns, Is it Worth It? The Dangers of Herbicides. Nature Boy Natural Images

Resources:

University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor 48109-2029.
National Institute of Public Health, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.
The Bioremediation and Phytoremediation of Pesticide- contaminated Sites Prepared by Chris Frazar National Network of Environmental Studies (NNEMS)
EPA Consumer Fact Sheet

About the Author

Kevin Doberstein enjoys wildlife and nature while hiking in the Wisconsin great outdoors. He is also the owner of Nature Boy Natural Images This web site displays outdoor wildlife and nature photography.
The Wisconsin Recreation Outdoors and Wildlife blog

 

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