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(Lighting the Way to Less Toxic Living)


Lawn Pesticide Facts and Figures


Pesticide Usage

n                    67 million pounds of pesticides are used each year on lawns.

n                    Suburban lawns and gardens receive far heavier pesticide applications per acre than most other land areas in the U.S., including agricultural acres.

n                    Homeowners apply 3.2-9.8 lbs per acre of lawn pesticides.

n                    On average 2.7 lbs per acre of pesticides are applied on agricultural land.

275 pesticide applications took place on a single block in Buffalo, NY during one season.

n                    55 out of 60 households on that Buffalo, NY block utilize lawn pesticides.

n                    Annual sales of professional lawn care industry: $1.5-2 billion.

n                      10 million consumers purchase lawn care services annually.


Pesticide Risks And The Flawed Registration System

n                    A child in a household using home and garden pesticides has a 6.5 times greater risk of developing leukemia.

n                    Dog owners who use the herbicide 2,4-D four or more times per season increase their dog’s chances of suffering lymphoma by two times.10 

n                    Of the 36 most commonly used lawn pesticides: 14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 15 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 24 with neurotoxicity, 22 with liver or kidney damage, and 34 are sensitizers and/or irritants.11 


Myth: Pesticides must undergo 120 safety tests before registration.12 

Facts: The U.S. General Accounting Office has told Congress on several occasions that the public is misled on pesticide safety by pesticide applicator statements characterizing pesticides as “safe” or “harmless.”13   EPA believes that no pesticide can ever be considered perfectly ‘safe.’14   Pesticide testing protocol was developed before science fully understood the human immune and/or hormonal system. Therefore, adverse effects on these human systems were not considered before pesticide products were licensed (“approved”).15   The Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) relies on tests of active ingredients alone without consideration of potential additives or synergistic effects with other substances.16 


Myth: Pesticide exposure is only a problem where the pesticides are applied.

Facts: An EPA study found 23 pesticides in indoor dust and air – many of which had not been used on the premises.17   Another found 26 different chemicals in dust and 19 in air samples of Cape Cod residences. 18  Herbicides are easily tracked indoors, contaminating the air and surfaces inside residences and exposing children at levels ten times higher than pre-application levels.18A


Children Are Particularly Vulnerable To Pesticides

n                    Children are the sector of the public most likely to be exposed to lawn pesticides.19 

n                    Children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals.20 

n                    Between 1973 and 1991, the overall incidence of childhood cancer increased 10%. Soft tissue sarcoma and brain cancer incidence increased more than 25%.21 

n                    A study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute indicates that household and garden pesticide use can increase risk of childhood leukemia as much as seven-fold.22 


Lawn Pesticides Threaten The Environment

n                    Of the 36 most common lawn pesticides: 14 have been detected in groundwater, 6 have the potential to leach, 11 are toxic to birds, 21 to fish and aquatic organisms, and 12 to bees.23 

n                    50 chemicals are on EPA’s list of unregulated drinking water contaminants, including herbicide ingredients such as diazinon, diuron, naphthalene, and various triazines, including the most common: Atrazine.24 


Trade Secret Ingredients Are Not Inert

Myth: Inerts are just fillers, like water, of no health significance.

Fact: “Inerts” is a soothing term for ingredients that go generally unregulated and untested by EPA due to their “trade secret” status, however, many are cited as hazardous to human health by state, federal and international agencies. Despite their name, these ingredients are neither chemically, biologically nor toxicologically inert. Oftentimes these secret ingredients are more toxic than the active ingredient.25 Notable secret ingredient facts include:

·         Xylene & toluene (nerve poisons linked to birth defects, bone marrow & kidney damage).25A

·         Monochlorobenzene (nerve poison and carcinogen, links to birth defects).25B

·         Ethylene chloride (nerve poison, linked with damage to heart, eyes, liver & adrenal glands).25C

·         Secret ingredients make up 95% of almost three-fourths (72%) of over-the-counter pesticide products.26 

·          Of the over 2300 substances EPA believes are used as “inerts”, most (over 1700) are classified as “of unknown toxicity,”27 50 as highly toxic with known carcinogenicity, neurotoxicity, adverse reproductive effects, birth defects or other chronic effects, and 60 as potentially toxic. 28 

·          More than 200 chemicals used as inert ingredients are considered hazardous pollutants and/or hazardous waste under federal environmental statutes. 29


NOTE:  In a 1995 list of inert ingredients, 394 chemicals were listed as active ingredients in other pesticide products.30 


This information was provided by: Beyond Pesticides, 701 E Street, SE, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20003. Tel. 202-543-5450; Email:  See footnotes, next page.


1 General Accounting Office (GAO), Lawn Care Pesticides: Risks Remain Uncertain While Prohibited Safety Claims Continue, RCED-90-134. 1990, p. 8.

2 National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Urban Pest Management, 1980.

3 Abrams, Robert, Attorney General of NY, Toxic Fairways: Risking Groundwater Contamination From Pesticides on Long Island Golf Courses, Environmental Protection Bureau. 1991, p.8.

4 Pimentel, D., et al., “Environmental and economic impacts of reducing U.S. agricultural pesticide use,” Handbook of Pest Management in Agriculture, 2nd ed., CRC Press, FL. 1991, p. 679.

5 From records kept by a NY state activist.

6 Ibid.

7 $1.5 billion: GAO, 1990, p.8; other figures: Lawn Care Industry 14(7):1. 1990.

8 Ibid.

9 Lowengart, R., et al., “Childhood leukemia and parents’ occupational and home exposures,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 79:39, 1987.

10 Hayes, H. et al., “Case-control study of canine malignant lymphoma: positive association with dog owner’s use of 2,4-D acid herbicides,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 83(17):1226, 1991.

11 Beyond Pesticides, Health Effects of 36 Commonly Used Lawn Pesticides, updated 2002.

12 James, A., Executive Director of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, a standing committee of the pesticide industry’s association, NCAC, “Lawn Chemicals Are Safe,” USA Today April 22, 1992.

13 U.S. General Accounting Office. Nonagricultural Pesticides: Risks and Regulation. GAO/RCED-86-97. Washington, DC. 1997.

14 U.S. General Accounting Office. “Nonagricultural Pesticides: Risks and Regulations,” 1986.

15 Comments by Susan S. Pitman, The Chemical Connection, A Public Health Network of Texans Sensitive to Chemicals, PO Box 26152, Austin, TX 78755. Comments on “Interim Statement and Guidance on Application of Pesticides to Waters of the United States in Compliance with FIFRA,” 9/14/03.

16 Ibid.

17 Lewis, R., et al., “Determination of routes of exposure of infants and toddlers to household pesticides: a pilot study,” Methods Research Branch, U.S. EPA, NC, 1991.

18  Rudel, R. et al.. “Phthalates, Alkylphenols, Pesticides, Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, and Other Endocrine-Disrupting Compounds in Indoor Air and Dust.” Environmental Science & Technology, Vol. 37, No. 20. Published on Web 09/13/2003.

18A Nishioka, M., et al., “Distribution of 2,4-D in Air and on Surfaces inside Residences after Lawn Applications: Comparing Exposure Estimates from Various Media for Young Children,” Environmental Health Perspectives 109(11) (2001).

19 Children’s habit patterns make them likely to spend more time than adults on treated turf and to have greater direct contact with turf – both because of play behaviors, hand-to-mouth behaviors and clothing differences. In addition, children’s breathing rates are higher. 20 US EPA, Office of the Administrator, Environmental Health Threats to Children, EPA 175-F-96-001, September 1996.

21 Ries, L., edited by Harras, A., Cancer Rates and Risks, National Institutes of Heath Publication No. 96-691, May 1996.

22 Lowengart, R. et al., “Childhood Leukemia and Parent’s Occupational and Home Exposures, “ Journal of the National Cancer Institute 79:39, 1987.

23 Beyond Pesticides, Environmental Effects of 36 Commonly Used Lawn Pesticides.

24 EPA. “Unregulated Drinking Water Contaminants,” Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, /dw_unregcontaminants.html

25A,B,C EPA. “List of Pesticide Product Inert Ingredients,” Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, July 22, 1991. Also, EPA website.

26 Spitzer, E., Attorney General of NY, The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk. 2000. Abrams, R., Attorney General of NY, found 90% instead of 95%. The Secret Hazards of Pesticides: Inert Ingredients, June 1991.

27 EPA. “List of Inert Pesticide Ingredients,” Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, 1998.

28 EPA. Inert Ingredients In Pesticide Products. OPP-36140. fr52.htm

29 Spitzer, E., Attorney General of NY, The Secret Ingredients in Pesticides: Reducing the Risk. 2000. 30 Ibid.

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