Top Ten Reasons Not to Poison Your Lawn

10. Dandelions are pretty and edible.


9. Dandelions are good food for bees, which are struggling.


8. Pesticides are harmful to wildlife, particularly amphibians.


7. Lawn chemicals are expensive and consume fossil fuels.

6. Pesticides have been shown to cross the placenta and contaminate breast milk (Anderson et al 2000; Landrigan et al 2002).


5. Ma et al (2002) showed a link between maternal exposures to pesticides and childhood leukemia.


4.Pesticides are causing IQ losses, learning disabilities, and autism:

  • Recent studies have shown that we are systematically lowering our children’s IQs by exposing them to pesticides, particularly organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos (Bouchard 2011; Engel 2011; Rauh 2011).
  • Children exposed before birth to organophosphate pesticides at the highest level – the highest 20% — tested 7.0 IQ points lower than children exposed at the lowest level – the lowest 20% (Bouchard 2011). Average on the IQ scale is 100; genius is 140, and disability begins at about 70.
  • Children in the lowest 20% of exposure are not at zero, or even non-testable levels.
  • An estimated one fourth of all American children lose IQ points to pesticide exposures – an estimated 16 million IQ points total (Bouchard 2011).
  • Pesticides have been repeatedly linked to autism and ADHD.
  • Right now, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, compared to 1 in 166 just a few years ago.
  • Pesticides are linked to other neurobehavioral disorders.

3.The President’s Cancer Panel and The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified landscape chemicals as significant contributors to childhood illness and death:

Three overarching principles can be identified: (1) pesticide exposures are common and cause both acute and chronic effects; (2) pediatricians need to be knowledgeable in pesticide identification, counseling, and management; and (3) governmental actions to improve pesticide safety are needed…. Chronic toxicity end points identified in epidemiologic studies include adverse birth outcomes including preterm birth, low birth weight, and congenital anomalies, pediatric cancers, neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits, and asthma. These are reviewed in the accompanying technical report. The evidence base is most robust for associations to pediatric cancer and adverse neurodevelopment. Multiple case-control studies and evidence reviews support a role for insecticides in risk of brain tumors and acute lymphocytic leukemia. Prospective contemporary birth cohort studies in the United States link early-life exposure to organophosphate insecticides with reductions in IQ and abnormal behaviors associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism. (Roberts and Carr 2012).

2. Many childhood health harms tied to pesticide exposure are on the rise (PANNA 2013).

Health Harms.png

1. Every infant now born is pre-polluted with an average of 200 toxic chemicals each, including pesticides.



Anderson HA, Wolff MS. Environmental contaminants in human milk. 2000. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol 10 Suppl 6:755-760.

Bouchard MF, Chevrier J, Harley KG, Kogut K, Vedar M, Calderon N, Trujillo C, Johnson C, Bradman A, Barr DB, Eskenazi B.   2011 Aug. Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7-year-old children. Environ Health Perspect 119(8): 1189-1195.

Engel SM, Wetmur J, Chen J, Zhu C, Barr DB, Canfield RL, et al. 2011.   Prenatal exposure to organophosphates, paraoxonase 1 and cognitive development in childhood. Environ Health Perspect 119:1182-1188.

Landrigan PJ, Sonawane B, Mattison D, McCally M, Garg A. 2002. Chemical Contaminants in Breast Milk and Their Impacts on Children’s Health: An Overview. Environ Health Perspect110(6):A313-A315.

Ma X, Buffler PA, Gunier RB, Dahl G, Smith MT, Reinier K, Reynolds P. 2002. Critical windows of exposure to household pesticides and risk of childhood leukemia. Environ Health Perspec110(9):955-960.

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). 2013. A generation in jeopardy. PANNA. Retrieved from

Rauh V, Arundjadai S, Horton M, Perera F, Hoepner L, Barr DB, et al. 2011. Seven-year neurodevelopmental scores and prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, a common agricultural pesticide. Environ Health Perspect 119:1196-1201.

Roberts JR, Carr CJ. 2012. Policy statement: Pesticide exposure in children. American Academy of Pediatrics 130(6):e1757-1763.

For Katherine

Surprised by Joy

By William Wordsworth   

— written for his daughter Catherine–

Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind—
But how could I forget thee?—Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss!—That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

Make Yellow the New Green

I couldn’t have said it better myself:

Green Grass isn’t Greener (Pesticide Dangers)

A few years ago, I met a man, an organic landscaper, who told the story of his next door neighbor. He was on his way out to his car one morning when he heard a hello. As he turned and waved to his neighbors, he noticed their 1 year old standing on the grass barefoot, his feet yellow from the fertilizer strewn all about the yard. Within that year the baby died of leukemia. The man never discussed the possible causes with the parents, but he had his suspicions based on what he had learned about fertilizer as an organic landscaper. He knew all about pesticide dangers; he knew they could kill. 

For those who think that the leukemia couldn’t possibly have been from the fertilizer (much of which contain pesticides), think again. According to, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute finds that household and garden pesticide use can increase the risk of childhood leukemia as much as seven-fold. AND studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer and soft tissue sarcoma.



Coal-Tar Driveway Sealants

It won’t be long now before spring is in the air, along with volatilized pollutants from lawn treatments and driveway sealants. If installing a new driveway, choose anything but blacktop. If you have inherited a blacktop driveway, choose asphalt, not coal-tar sealants. Not only are the PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) a major contaminant of local rivers; they are linked to serious health consequences like cancer and birth defects and found at high levels in homes that use coal-tar sealants. It makes me cringe when I remember that we used this product around Katherine. No one wants regrets like ours. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) has the best information on coal-tar sealants; they find that

  • Dust from pavement with coal-tar-based sealcoat has greatly elevated PAH concentrations compared to dust from unsealed pavement.
  • Coal-tar-based sealcoat is the largest source of PAH contamination to 40 urban lakes studied, accounting for one-half of all PAH inputs.
  • Coal-tar-based sealcoat use is the primary cause of upward trends in PAHs, since the 1960s, in urban lake sediment.
  • Residences adjacent to parking lots with coal-tar-based sealcoat have PAH concentrations in house dust that are 25 times higher than those in house dust in residences adjacent to parking lots without coal-tar- based sealcoat.
  • PAHs move from a sealcoated surface into our environment by many mechanisms: storm runoff, adhesion to tires, wind, foot traffic, and volatilization.coal_tar_dispersal-credit-City-of-Austin-1024x456


You can learn more at And be prepared for disinformation from the industry. Last year, Benedictine hosted a small event with USGS scientists on this subject. Industry hacks and their lawyers followed this scientist from one speaking event to another, asking misleading questions and trying to dominate conversation. I had never before seen in action the deliberate effort to create doubt about health effects as a way to confuse consumers.

Flint: The American Public Health Association Addresses Lead Pipes

Lead is a battle that was supposed to be won. I include this graph on the success of Public Health efforts to reduce lead poisoning at the beginning of many of my talks just to show this: that if we make changes to public policy, if we decide to regulate industry, if we stop poisoning our children, we can change lives.

Lead Graph

Figure 1. Percentage of children 1-5 years old in the U.S. population with elevated blood lead levels (≥ 10 μg/dL) (Jones et al. 2009).

But we are still living with past generations’ bad decisions, with the paint and gas industries’ lies and obstructionism. We will live with this lethal legacy for some time to come. What kind of legacy are we leaving our own children and grandchildren? What industries are getting away with murder now?

The American Public Health Association (APHA) is conducting a webinar series to address the problem of lead pipes, a problem that is not just in Flint.

Participate in the three-part series at The Flint Water Crisis and Beyond:

  • Flint and Lead: The Water-Public Health Connection, March 16, 2016, 1 p.m. EDT
  • Public Health’s Legal Authority and Safe Drinking Water, April 5, 2016, 1 p.m. EDT
  • Working Together to Address Lead Exposure in our Communities, week of April 25, 2016

Go to for lead resources from APHA, including:

  • AJPH research on lead exposure in water, housing, consumer products and more. Includes the research by Flint pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, whose work confirmed the crisis.
  • News articles from The Nation’s Health covering research findings, case studies and prevention programs.
  • Lead reports, issue briefs, fact sheets and publications.
  • APHA policy statements.

Advocate and help the people of Flint:

It is too late to undo the damage done to the children of Flint. But it is not too late to address lead and other contaminants that systematically poison our children and ourselves. When did we forget that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? The United States is notoriously poor when it comes to prevention in many areas. After all, it’s hard to feel a hero when you don’t know what child you saved from cognitive deficits, autism, cancer, birth defects, or auto-immune disease. But the point of public health, notwithstanding the recent failures of the CDC, is precisely this: to be the unsung heroes who prevent these maladies from occurring to start with.


›Jones RL, Homa DM, Meyer PA, Brody JF, Caldwell KL, Pirkle JL, Brown MJ. 2009. Trends in blood lead levels and blood lead testing among U.S. children aged 1 to 5 years, 1988-2004. Pediatrics 123(3):e376-e385.


Microcephaly tied to pesticides instead of Zika Virus?

For some time now, various bloggers have been publishing the suspicions of Argentinian physicians that a larvacide put in water to kill mosquitoes, Pyriproxyfen, may be responsible for the recent rash of microcephaly in Brazil, rather than the Zika virus. Now CNN has lent further credibility to the hypothesis by running the story. It is too soon to say for sure, but the evidence is quite suggestive. You can find the full report here. The physicians note that in previous outbreaks of Zika — as well in other countries where Zika is widespread — there was no uptick in microcephaly, despite 75% of the population being infected. They also mention that the larvacide is manufactured by a Japanese subsidiary of Monsanto and claim that “this strategy is in fact a commercial manoeuvre from the chemical poisons industry, deeply integrated into Latin American ministries of health as well as WHO and PAHO” (2016).

Pyriproxyfen acts by inhibiting growth in mosquito larvae, lending biological plausibility to a connection with human fetal development. Pyriproxyfen is teratogenic (causes malformations in an embryo or fetus), at least in mosquitoes, and an endocrine disruptor. The authors point out that early embryonic development is not so dissimilar in humans compared to mosquitoes, and that we share 60% of our active genes with the Aedes mosquito (2016).  I echo the outrage of the authors that no one considered the possible risk of widespread use of a toxic pesticide like this one; however, nothing could be more common, in the developing world as in the U.S.


(CNN)Brazilian health officials and the World Health Organization are denying links between a well-known pesticide and microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to develop abnormally small heads and leads to death in some cases.

The pesticide is called Pyriproxyfen, and it’s used in water tanks to eliminate mosquito larvae.

A group of doctors from Argentina claims this larvicide could be behind the recent surge in babies born with microcephaly in Brazil. Based on this claim, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, has decided to ban the larvicide.

Joao Gabbardo dos Reis, secretary of health for Rio Grande do Sul, announced Saturday that the use of the larvicide to treat water used for human consumption is now prohibited.

“We decided to suspend the use of the product [Pyriproxyfen] in human consumption water until we get a position in the Ministry of Health and because of that we strengthen the appeal to the population to eliminate any possible breeding ground of the mosquito,” said Gabbardo said.

The Brazilian state made its decision based on a report published by the University Network of the Environment and Health, a group of doctors from Argentina.

“They fail to recognize,” the report says, “that in the area where most sick persons live, a chemical larvicide producing malformations in mosquitoes has been applied for 18 months, and that this poison (Pyriproxyfen) is applied by the state on drinking water used by the affected population.

Read the full article at



Red Universitaria de Ambiente y Salud. 2016. Report from physicians in the crop-sprayed town regarding Dengue-Zika, microcephaly, and massive spraying with chemical poisons. Available at

Dow’s Enlist Duo Update: Tribune Investigative Report

The Chicago Tribune continues to do some very fine investigative reporting on pesticides like Dow’s Enlist Duo that are fast-tracked through the EPA’s registration system. I say “registration,” note, not “approval” or “regulatory.” Many people believe that the EPA is protecting us from harmful pesticides and other chemicals when that is very far from the case. Enlist Duo combines both glyphosate and 2, 4-D to try to fight the superweeds fostered by Round-Up Ready corn and soybeans. Remember when advocates of GMO foods promised us a reduction in amount of pesticides applied? That is very far from the case, particularly with herbicides on corn, soy, and cotton. Since the introduction of GM crops, pesticide use overall has increased by an estimated 7% (Benbrook 2012). These are just the kind of unthinking exposures that killed my daughter and are fated to kill many more, all for the sake of corporate profits. The common thread with Flint? Trust or lack thereof in the U.S. regulatory system.

Congress questions EPA about Dow’s Enlist Duo pesticide risks

Thirty-five members of Congress are questioning Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy about her agency’s review of a controversial Dow Chemical Co. weedkiller that was the subject of a Chicago Tribune investigation last year.

In a letter sent to McCarthy late last week, Democratic lawmakers from across the country said they were concerned about the health risks posed by Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide, which combines 2,4-D and glyphosate as a one-two punch to battle weeds that have evolved to become impervious to glyphosate alone. Dow has genetically modified corn and soybeans to make them immune to Enlist Duo so that farmers can spray entire fields with the herbicide, sparing the crops but killing the weeds.

When the EPA approved Enlist Duo in 2014, the agency tossed aside evidence of kidney lesions in lab rats that Dow’s own scientists said were caused by 2,4-D, clearing the way for children to be exposed to levels considered for decades to be unsafe, the Tribune investigation found.

“We were concerned to learn that, during this process, EPA dismissed a key study linking 2,4-D to kidney abnormalities based on one scientist’s analysis, and in doing so, effectively gave the green light for 41 times more of the chemical to enter the America diet than was previously allowed,” the lawmakers wrote.

The EPA is reconsidering its approval of Enlist Duo, but agency officials told the Tribune last December that its scientists solely are determining whether bigger no-spray zones are needed to protect endangered plants near the edges of farm fields. The fact that the agency’s review is focusing only on plants and not people was troubling to the lawmakers.

“These actions do not address questions about serious potential health risks brought to light by the Chicago Tribune,” the lawmakers wrote.

The congressional group is led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio — both Democrats from Oregon — and includes Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat. The group asked a dozen questions about the EPA’s review of the chemical and urged the agency to scrutinize everything from the human cancer risks to the environmental threat that the monarch butterfly faces when the herbicide wipes out its food source, milkweed.

“Given the widely-known adverse impacts of 2,4-D on human health and the environment, and with little understood about the implications of combining 2,4-D and glyphosate, EPA should use the utmost caution in assessing the safety of Enlist Duo before approving it for continued use,” they wrote. “… The public deserves to know how EPA intends to address all of these concerns.”

A Dow spokesman did not return a phone call and email seeking comment Friday. Dow has said Enlist Duo is safe and that 2,4-D is one of the most widely studied weedkillers in history.

An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment Friday. The EPA last year said 2,4-D was so safe that nobody would be harmed even if every corn and soybean farmer in America sprayed Enlist Duo.

The EPA’s own worst-case estimates of exposure show that young American children could be exposed to levels of 2,4-D that the World Health Organization, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Brazil and China all consider unsafe, the Tribune found.

Read the full story at


Benbrook CM. 2012. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S.: The first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe 24:24. Available at

Callahan P. 2016. Congress questions EPA about Dow’s Enlist Duo pesticide risks. Chicago Tribune, February 15. Available at


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