“It is ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Now that summer is around the corner, many people will take to working on their gardens and grass lawns in the quest to achieve and maintain the perfect green lawn. But monocultures are anathema to nature and people often turn to herbicides to produce that perfect lawn.
The two largest Canadian provinces, Ontario and Quebec, have had a ban on cosmetic herbicides for a few years. Other Canadian cities and towns are have not waited for provincial legislation and have implemented their own municipal bans. As far as I can tell no such legislation exists anywhere in the USA.
Chronic exposure to herbicides has been implicated in the increased risk cancer and neuropathologies; in dogs it has been connected with increased risk of risk of bladder cancer. This is of particular importance to some breeds; Scottish Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Beagles, West Highland White Terriers, and Wire Hair Fox Terriers all already have elevated risk of bladder cancer. (PDF)
A study published in the Science of the Total Environment has some disturbing findings about commonly used lawn herbicides.
The first experiment tracked pesticide residue under different grass conditions – green, dry brown, wet, and recently mowed grass. Herbicides were present even 48 hours after application and longer under brown conditions. Chemicals were also detected in untreated lawns which suggested chemical drift from nearby sources. So if your neighbor sprays then it’s probably getting on your lawn too and it is there for a good 2 days.
The second part of this paper looked at concentration of 2,4-D, MCPP, and dithiopyr in dog’s urine. The study found herbicide in the urine and 19 of 25 dogs from households with treated lawns and 4/8 dogs from untreated households. And the last bit of bad news is that contaminated dogs may be acting as vectors and exposing their owners to these herbicides.
Those that still spray lawn chemicals should keep in mind that these herbicides don’t just stay on the grass, they are making their way into animals exposed to that grass too – that includes dogs, wildlife and children.
Knapp DW, Peer WA, Conteh A, Diggs AR, Cooper BR, Glickman NW, Bonney PL, Stewart JC, Glickman LT, & Murphy AS (2013). Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application. The Science of the total environment, 456-457C, 34-41 PMID: 23584031