How Much Do You Pay 
For Your Neighbour’s Lawn Care?

Update Spring 1999

     Scientific research links the alarming rise in childhood illnesses such as cancer, asthma and immune system problems with pesticide use.  Even though the link is clear, pesticide use increases.  Dr. June Irwin, a Quebec specialist, says, “without permit, our children are part of a human experiment.  How many lives must be lost and how many illnesses suffered, while waiting for statistics?” 

     And, just who are the victims of pesticides?  Children, fetuses and the elderly are especially vulnerable to pesticide poisoning.  Children’s developing bodies, their hand-to-mouth behaviours, and their higher metabolism make their exposure to pesticides far riskier than the same exposure to an adult (which are already very significant).  Standard Soviet forestry practices recommend buffer zones of 3500 metres around any youth camp or senior citizens home when the pesticide 2,4-D is used nearby.

     Sweden banned 2,4-D in 1988.  It is now believed that low-dose, chronic exposures to such toxins are far more dangerous than previously thought.
More and more scientific studies link pesticide exposures to delayed physical problems, early onset neurological damage (Alzheimer disease and MS), delayed neuropathologies (after a Dursban application, for example), as well as behavioural problems in children.  The enormity of the health and human costs of these ailments are as staggering as they are difficult to assess.

Health problems at your expense

     These are real costs.  And with the increase in cancers, and early onset of diseases of all kinds, taxpayers subsidize increased medical costs caused by toxic lawn programs.

     Seat belt and bike helmet laws were enforced not only to protect the person using them, but also to protect taxpayers who pay the medical costs associated with frequent, but avoidable injuries.  It’s common sense public health policy to eliminate disease inducing levels of non-essential environmental toxins in our communities.
We at R.A.T.E.’s (Real Alternative To Toxins in the Environment) information line hear many personal stories from people suffering under the toxic burden of chemical exposure.  We are often asked (by people unaware of toxic exposure) who are these people and how do neighbourhood lawn pesticides effect them.  These questions are asked with overtones of skepticism, implying that reactive people are somehow without credibility, somehow fringe members of society.  We are quick to point out that reactive people are teachers, doctors, hair stylists, librarians and children.  Many of these people have served our society for years, and now they need our help to keep landscape pesticides from drifting into their homes.

     Like the impact of a flu virus (some reactions are similar), the type of effects from toxic exposure reflect differences in the tolerance and physiology of each individual.
Here are some examples:
  · A woman’s eyes ulcerate when she is exposed to chemicals.  Further chemical exposures, such as pesticides, could leave her blind.
  · Another person experiences cardiac symptoms, and proximity to pesticides in this case could cause serious damage to the heart.  The EPA recognizes that five large classes of pesticides can cause tachycardia (runaway heart rate) episodes.
  · One child gets asthma so severely that a single exposure to pesticides may require a stay in a hospital.  A child in a different family gets irritable bowel symptoms for months.  Another child was left with epilepsy.  Some children are left with months of illness.  Some children, with cancer in remission, need to have their homes free of known carcinogenic chemicals.  And don’t all children? 

     “So why can’t these people just leave their homes?” is another questions that’s also asked.  We explain that everyone is at risk of suffering pesticide-induced illnesses, either immediate or delayed, as we all share the same physiology.  Therefore, a case could be made for evacuating entire communities.

The high cost of safety

     One woman, acutely sensitive to pesticides, built a separate house to move into when pesticides are sprayed in her neighbourhood.  Another doctor spent over $5000 on extra summer housing; another bought an extra lot as a buffer zone.
But most people haven’t got a safe place to go.  On average, a pesticide-sensitive person must leave their home for 45 days.  And, at $55 per night (average), this cost can amount to several thousand dollars.

     Lawn pesticides are impossible to keep out of your home if they are used in the neighbourhood.  Most people cannot afford any of these solutions:  they simply seal their houses as securely as possible...and fall ill.

     People are compensated by insurance policies and/or government agencies when their homes are damaged by ice storms or flooding.  But there is no compensation for chemical exposure - whether it affects your home or health - because it is not an act of nature.

     Unfortunately, satisfactory legal solutions have not proceeded the spread of lawn chemicals.  The latent damage caused by some pesticides may not be evident for months or years after exposure, making it very difficult for people to make the connections and assess their true costs.

     The truth is simple, as Environment Canada stated in a 1987 report:  “Pesticides are poison, or they wouldn’t kill...We must insist on nontoxic, biodegradable materials.”  Our community can hardly afford to do otherwise.

Ways you and your pet are being exposed to lawn pesticides

Breathing:  Toxic fumes in the air are carried by the wind which are breathed in; they are also absorbed by laundry drying outside.

Skin Exposure:  Touching plants, patio furniture, bicycles, laundry, etc. which have been treated or coated with drifting pesticide spray.

Ingestion:  Well water contamination and/or drifting spray onto vegetable gardens, fruit trees.