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Lawn Treatments Can Be Harmful to Your Child, Your Dog and You

Did you know we are hurting the environment, dogs and kids of the Admiral’s Hill to have the beautiful green lawn we see around us? Most of the associations around the Hill have been applying Merit 0.2 Turf Fertilizer to their lawns. That means we are poisoning our lawns with Imadacloprid; an insecticide used for the control of sucking insects such as fleas, aphids, whiteflies, termites, turf insects, soil insects, and some beetles. Although the use of imidacloprid has been gaining popularity in agricultural and residential settings, its human and environmental effects have not been fully evaluated, despite its registration on over 10 years ago. While many in the industry consider imidacloprid to be a pesticide of relatively low toxicity, it has been found to be extremely toxic to non-target insects like bees, and recently has led to resistance in the Colorado potato beetle. Imidacloprid has just been banned for any outside usage in the European Union to protect honeybees, but it is still legal in the USA.


What Are the Health Risks?

More and more medical research links pesticides to health issues. Imidacloprid health risks include:

·         Immediate symptoms such as skin rashes, nausea and vomiting, eye irritations, and respiratory problems

·         Muscle weakness, incoordination, muscle tremors

·         Although rare, dogs and humans can die if they swallow this product

Reproductive issues, and birth defects.
Chronic exposure may cause morphological changes in liver and thyroid and weight loss in dogs and even death. It also can cause liver cancer, adenomas and carcinomas.
Sadly, it’s hard to avoid exposure, even if you want to. Pesticides can drift in your windows or over the fence from your neighbor’s yard. In fact, research indicates that pesticides can drift for miles. You (and your dog) can track pesticides into your house, where they don’t break down easily. Pesticides get into house dust, and children ingest them when they put their fingers in their mouths.


What Are the Environmental Risks?

Imidacloprid is toxic to upland game and birds. So toxic is imidacloprid to birds that the EPA concluded that the ‘levels of concern’ for secondary exposures were exceeded for both non-endangered and endangered songbirds. Imidacloprid causes abnormal behavior, such as lack of coordination, lack of responsiveness and an inability to fly, in birds for which it is not considered highly toxic, such as mallards. Other adverse effects observed include eggshell thinning (at exposures of 61mg/kg), decreased weight (at exposures of 150 ppm) in food) and reduced egg production and hatching success. Imidacloprid also appears to repel birds when used as a seed treatment.

It is of moderate to low toxicity to fish and extremely toxic to some species of freshwater and estuarine crustaceans. Earthworms exposed to imidacloprid experience reproductive and mutagenic effects, even at low concentrations. Despite being an insecticide, imidacloprid can be toxic to plants should drift and runoff occur. Cases documenting damage to greenhouse crops exposed to imidacloprid have been reported. Imidacloprid can also reduce blue-green algal communities and diatoms at moderate concentrations.

Honeybees: Imidacloprid is highly toxic to bees when used in foliar applications, and most recently has been identified, along with other pesticides in its chemical class, as one of the pesticides that may be responsible for the decline in honeybee populations in the U.S. and abroad. The rapid disappearance of the honeybees, also dubbed “Colony Collapse Disorder” or CCD, has been observed in the U.S. since 2006. This prompted researchers to investigate the cause of this phenomenon and regulators have found studies to be inconclusive. Despite this, imidacloprid has been linked to sublethal effects in honeybees, which include disruptions in mobility, navigation, and feeding behavior. Lethal and sublethal exposures to imidacloprid have been shown to decrease foraging activity, along with olfactory learning performance and decrease hive activity. Bees are exposed when they pollinate flowering crops treated with imidacloprid, or pesticide drift (via wind) from surrounding areas. Honeybees intercept, and are contaminated by, particles on crops and suspended in the air, and retain them in their hair and/or accumulate them in their bodies and hives, leading to loses of entire colonies. The effects of CCD can be especially devastating since honeybees are essential pollinators of crops that constitute over one third of the U.S. food supply or $15 billion worth of food.



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not doing enough to protect communities from toxic pesticide exposure. Given insufficient action at the federal level, this leaves states and localities to pick up the slack in protecting their residents. Here are the specifics on why EPA isn't doing enough to properly vet toxic chemicals:


1. EPA only tests the active ingredient in pesticide formulations. Despite the fact that a pesticide product can contain multiple ingredients, the agency does not look at what are known as "synergistic impacts." Science shows that combinations of active ingredients can increase or decrease the toxicity of a product, but this impact is simply not evaluated by the agency.


2. EPA does not test the toxicity of "inert ingredients" or combinations of inert ingredients and active ingredients, despite the fact that they may comprise up to 99.9% of a pesticide formulation. Beyond Pesticides' and allies have sued the agency to require disclosure, but legal maneuvering has kept consumers in the dark.


3. EPA often registers pesticides through a program called "conditional registration." In these cases, the agency permits a pesticide to go to market without all of its required data on health and environmental impacts because the agency assumes that no harm will come as it waits for this data. Time and time again, EPA has been criticized for this practice, including in a report from the Government Accountability Office. The agency wrote: “Specifically, EPA does not have a reliable system, such as an automated data system, to track key information related to conditional registrations, including whether companies have submitted additional data within required time frames.” Past incidents like the herbicide Imprellis, or insecticide flubendiamide show the danger this program can cause.


Promoting Alternatives

Some local leaders will delve deeper into the science, and understand the need for action based on the hazards pesticide pose to human and environmental health. However, others will remain skeptical, concerned that they will be losing an important tool for the community to control pests and weeds. That is why it is critically important to be prepared not only to identify the problem, but also provide a positive solution. The good thing is that every day, the rapidly growing organic sector is providing new and innovative practices and products that can replace toxic pesticides.


Organic Alternative

Even if your local leaders aren't convinced pesticides are harmful, the question becomes one of precaution. Even if there is small chance of harm, why would we as a community take the risk, given that there are readily available economic and effective alternatives?

1. Organic alternatives are cost effective. Take it from Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection: "If your lawn is currently chemically dependent, initially it may be more expensive to restore it. But in the long term, an organic lawn will actually cost you less money. Once established, an organic lawn uses less water and fertilizers, and requires less labor for mowing and maintenance." There's also research from Harvard University, which has a long-standing organic land care program. Its investigation determined that, ultimately, total operating costs of the organic maintenance program are expected to be the same as its prior the conventionally based program. In a 2009 New York Times article, the school determined that irrigation was reduced by 30%, saving 2 million gallons of water a year as a result of reduced irrigation needs. The school was also spending $35,000/year trucking yard waste off site. The university can now use those materials for composting and has saved an additional $10k/year due to the decreased cost and need to purchase fertilizer from off-campus sources. As another source, see nationally renowned lawn care expert Chip Osborne's report, which looks specifically at the cost of conventional and organic turf management on school athletic fields. The report concludes that once established, a natural turf management program can result in savings of greater than 25% compared to a conventional turf management program. There have been leaps and strides in the efficiency of organic systems since that report was first published.

2. You can maintain an aesthetically appealing lawn without the use of toxic pesticides. By focusing on natural systems, turf and landscapes build what's known as ecological resiliency. Resiliency is a term used to describe the ability for an environment to bounce back to its previous state after a disturbance. Organic land management requires a "systems approach," which incorporates preventive steps based on building soil biomass to improve soil fertility and turf grass health, organic products based on a soil analysis that determines need, and specific cultural practices, including mowing height, aeration, dethatching, and over-seeding. Organic turf management is a “feed-the-soil” approach that centers on natural, organic fertilization, microbial inoculants, compost teas, and compost topdressing as needed. This approach builds a soil environment rich in microbiology that will produce strong, healthy turf able to withstand stress. When properly maintained, organic lawns look just as appealing as a conventional, chemical based approach.


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Thanks in advance for your support,

The Residents and Supporters of the Admiral’s Hill