Safer Lawns

Ozarks Gardening
Jim Long

Safer Lawns

According to the National Garden Bureau, there is an expected seven million first time gardeners this year. That’s a lot of new folks thinking about growing their own food, and I think that’s a good thing. I hope it will mean, also, people who grow their own gardens, in their own backyards, will consider the implications of the chemicals they put on their lawns and plants.

Dr. June Irwin, a doctor in Hudson, Quebec, has been on a campaign in her town for almost 20 years to reduce and eliminate lawn chemicals on residents’ lawns. Why? Because babies, children and pets, all play on, roll through, eat and sleep on lawns, and many of those chemicals are not safe for skin contact. Additionally, lots of the chemicals that are sprayed on so-called, “perfect” lawns and golf courses, wind up in the water supply. There’s a lot of evidence, according to Dr. Irwin, that many kinds of cancer and diseases can be traced to these chemicals in local water supplies. (Plus fish die offs and grotesquely-formed fish in streams below gold courses, apparently has a direct connection to chemical run-off from the courses).

A new feature-length, award-winning documentary called A Chemical Reaction tells how Paul Tukey, author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual and founder of http://www.SafeLawns.org, discovered June Irwin's story as he campaigned on behalf of a kinder, earth-friendly method of maintaining lawns.

Tukey documents Dr. Irwin’s efforts to remove the chemicals in her town, making it safer for children, pets and the town’s water supply. What Dr. Irwin accomplished was her town, Hudson, Quebec, became the first town in North America to ban all lawn chemicals. The town was subsequently sued by the world’s largest lawn care company, but the town won all court challenges all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court in 2001. Today, lawn chemicals are now banned in more than half of Canada and are not sold in Home Depot and other major retail chains in that country. (The same lawn chemicals are still sold in the U.S., however).

This new documentary, A Chemical Reaction, is available on DVD for $19.95 each from http://www.safelawns.org/chemical-reaction.

You may not have noticed after your lawn was treated for “weeds” and lawn insects, that lots of your songbirds were dead in the street. You may not even care, but the people whose water supply is downstream from you, may care.

Don’t pound on me saying I’m anti-chemical. I’m not. I am, however, concerned about the enormous amounts of needless chemicals people put on their lawns, and the effects those chemicals have, for wildlife, children, pets and the rising incidence of cancer and other diseases. There are safe, effective alternatives to dangerous chemicals for the lawn. Consider looking into safer ways of having an attractive lawn instead of blindly dumping chemicals you are afraid to touch or breathe.

To read more about the effects of atrazine and other chemicals on lawns, the proof in the demise of frogs in our streams, check out Grumpy Gardener's blog post. Surely we can do something good to stop this ongoing problem, besides just sitting by and waiting while our wildlife dies and our population's cancer rate grows.