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By the Prevent Cancer Now writers’ circle
As Canadians are turning their thoughts to things green, for those pondering spring lawn care thoughts may include pesticides – products to kill weeds or insects. It is important to know that non-essential synthetic pesticides used ‘cosmetically’ to make lawns and gardens look better were not designed for people or animals to romp upon!
Not surprisingly, chemicals meant to be toxic when spread in the environment can harm us as well. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that the weedkiller glyphosate and the insecticide malathion probably cause cancer. Bets are that IARC’s June re-examination of the popular weedkiller 2,4-D will conclude the same. The Ontario College of Family Physicians twice systematically reviewed research and linked various pesticides used in urban areas with serious illnesses such as cancer, reproductive problems and neurological diseases. These chemicals also pose heightened risks to children, pregnant women, and those with health conditions such as asthma and chemical sensitivities.
Pesticide-based lawn care proponents often claim that chemicals are necessary to protect asthmatics from common allergens (tree pollen, grass and ragweed), but in fact pesticides actually aggravate asthma. For ragweed, there is a better, non-toxic alternative to the newly declared carcinogen glyphosate. Since ragweed germinates in early spring, a timely application of corn gluten meal as the snow finishes melting can stop the seeds from forming roots. If you miss that window, there are few weeds easier to pull than ragweed, and the corn gluten meal will stop other seeds germinating. Just remember not to seed your lawn at the same time! Corn gluten meal is sold in some garden centres and in stores carrying ‘green’ products.
In the interest of public health, restrictions on pesticide use close to where people live are increasing across Canada. Seven provinces have taken steps to significantly reduce cosmetic pesticide exposure. Ontario and Halifax have model legislation, Quebec’s is moderately protective, and Manitoba is currently implementing strong legislation for herbicides. Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC have yet to take this step.
It is surprisingly easy to have a great looking organic lawn with minimal effort and cost. Briefly, cut the grass high (about 7 cm), water infrequently but deeply when needed, aerate and over-seed. Consider including some Dutch white clover to generate nitrogen fertilizer naturally. There are organic solutions to all landscape and garden problems – solutions that ensure you and your family, friends, pets, as well as local wildlife have a safe place to tread, and a yard in balance with nature.
Published: May 19, 2015
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