Why Safe Lawns?

"LAWN CHEMICALS ARE DANGEROUS to humans, especially children. Cancer, asthma, endocrine disorders, autism, Parkinson’s Disease, ADHD, and birth defects have all been linked to exposure to common lawn care chemicals. Weed-freelawns are not worth risking the health of our citizens.
1) The brain and nervous system of a child is not fully developed until 2 years of age. This development can be retarded by exposure to toxins commonly used in lawn care
2) A child has a body surface area to total size ratio which allows for an excessive and disproportionate absorption of toxins when compared with adults.
3) The enzyme systems responsible for detoxification are not fully developed in children which allows toxins to easily accumulate in the body.
4)Children are on our lawns; rolling around, crawling, and even tasting grass. I put no chemicals on my lawn so my kids can play without risk of neurotoxic chemicals accumulating in their vulnerable bodies."

Kevin Strong MD
Pen Bay Pediatric

Six out of six of our local pediatricians endorse the mission of Citizens for a Green Camden, and agree that lawn pesticides are harmful to children and should not be used for cosmetic reasons in our town. These doctors, who are looking out for our youngest and most vulnerable members of our community, are: Kevin Strong, M.D., Susan Mckinley, M.D., Emery B. Howard, Jr., M.D., Sam Lew, M.D., Dana Goldsmith, M.D., and William Stephenson, M.D.

A CHEMICAL REACTION, is a 70 minute feature documentary movie that tells the story of one of the most powerful and effective community initiativesin the history of North America. Paul Tukey, one of the nation's leading experts on organic lawn care, has been following this story for years. After becoming seriously ill with acute pesticide sensitivity from applying chemical lawn products in his own lawn care business, he became an outspoken advocate for alternatives to chemical lawn care. He travels across the country lecturing on the subject and has written the nation's leading book on organic lawn care, "The Organic Lawn Care Manual."

American homeowners use up to 10 times more pesticides per acre of lawn than farmers use on an acre of crops. Here, courtesy of Organic Gardening magazine, is how we can all have a thick, lush lawn while protecting our town,


Weed and feed
These widely popular "weed and feed" products combine a synthetic lawn fertilizer and herbicide in the same bag. One of the most common herbicides in weed and feed products, a chemical called 2,4-D, has been linked to human health problems, including an increased risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Synthetic fertilizers
These are chemically processed into concentrated, water-soluble nutrients that are available to plants immediately. But when there is more than the grass can take up, the excess washes out of the grass's root zone and into the watershed.

Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 16 pose serious hazards to birds, 24 are toxic to fish and aquatic organisms, and 11 have adverse effects on bees.

Lawn chemicals
Lawn chemicals get tracked indoors onto surfaces where kids play. A study of indoor air pollutants found 2,4-D in 63 percent of homes. A different study demonstrate that levels of 2,4-D in indoor air and on indoor surfaces increased after it was applied on lawns. Fifty percent of contact with pesticides occurs within the first five years of life. Such repeated contact has been linked to numerous diseases inchildren; exposure to garden pesticides can increase the risk of childhood leukemia almost sevenfold. Contact with low levels of pesticides increases miscarriage rates, and a link has been documented between residential pesticide use and breast cancer risk in women. Frequent exposure to pesticides has been found to increase theincidence of Parkinson's disease by 70 per cent.

Like small children, pets can NOT read the “Keep Off--Pesticide Application” signs on your lawn or your neighbor’s. Exposure to lawnstreated with herbicides four or more times a year have be en found to double a dog’s risk of canine lymphoma, while some breeds of dogs, were exposed to chemically treated lawns were four to seven times more likely to suffer from bladdercancer.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: A 6-step Organic Lawn Plan

1. Thicken Your Lawn
Spreading grass seed over an existing lawn is the best way to get a lush green swath that’s free of weeds. Look for a seed mix specifically labeled for your conditions: sun or partial shade. (Grass doesn’t grow well in full shade, so plant other ground covers in those areas.) And be sure to get a type of grass suited to the Maine climate. Fall is the best time to over seed, but if your lawn is thin, don’t be afraid to do it in spring. Before you start, cut your grass to about 2 inches high to allow sunlight to germinate the new seed. Spread about 3 to 4 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.

2. Feed with Compost
Add compost to increase the soil’s organic matter content to as much as 7 percent and greatly improve water retention at the same time. To apply compost as a topdressing for areas smaller than 2,000 square feet, use a wheelbarrow and drop small piles intermittently around your lawn; then rake the compost out to about a quarter to three-eighths of an inch. For larger areas, use a spreader.

3. Water Wisely
Water early in the morning to prevent fungal disease and reduce evaporation loss. Deep, infrequent irrigation forces grass to send roots down into the soil to find moisture and makes it more drought-tolerant. About an inch every week from rainfall or your hose is enough to keep an established lawn green.

4. Cut High
Mowing cool-season grass 3 inches high is at least as effective as using herbicides to suppress crabgrass. Set your mower blade to its highest level. Be sure to keep it sharp. Mow often, because you never want to cut off more than one-third of the grass blades at a time.

5. Leave the Clippings
Invest in a mulching blade for your mower and leave the clippings on your lawn. As they decompose, they add valuable organic matter to the soil and about 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each season, which means you have to spend less time and money on fertilizing.

6. Feed Responsibly
Organic fertilizers come from natural plant, animal, and mineral sources. They release nutrients slowly as plants need them. Follow the directions on the label to avoid overfeeding. In general, apply a low dose in early fall and in midspring.


Post a “Pesticide-Free Lawn” sign in your yard available online at Beyond Pesticides. Talk with neighbors about the problems with lawn chemicals.

Request that all local nurseries follow the example of Plants Unlimited by down playing toxic products and promoting organic lawn products.

The best way to draw attention to the benefits of an organic lawn is to grow healthy, beautiful grass organically.

Write to local officials to let them know you’re concerned about lawn-chemical use in your community and urge them to consider repealing preemption laws, which restrict municipalities from passing local pesticide ordinances that are stricter than state policy.

Copyright Citizens for a Green Camden 2010