Daily News Archive
From September 20, 2006                                                                                                        

Leading Anti-Pesticide Activist's Lawn Doused With Toxic Chemicals
(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2006)
Tess Karwoski, one of Michigan’s leading environmental activists and a proponent of alternatives to dangerous pesticides used in many lawn-care products, had her lawn doused with chemicals linked to birth defects and hormonal damage last week. A mistake by TruGreen ChemLawn was to blame for the application, which soaked Karwoski's entire back yard with a mixture of MCPA, mecoprop and dicamba. TruGreen planted their "Keep Children and Pets Off Lawn" warning sign only a few feet away from Ms. Karwoski’s "Pesticide-Free Zone" sign.

Ms. Karwoski, who serves as the Health and Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental Council, was working from her Ann Arbor home, speaking by phone to another environmental worker about pesticide issues, which is her specialty, when she heard a diesel engine idling out front Thursday afternoon. She did not think much about the noise at first, figuring it was a delivery truck. After it continued for several minutes, she looked out the window and saw a TruGreen ChemLawn truck and a hose snaking onto her property.

By the time she got outside, the TruGreen workman had already completed a pesticide application to the back yard, and was starting on the side yard. After confronting the applicator and telling him that she had no contract with TruGreen and that she did not want any treatments on her lawn, Ms. Karwoski proceeded to caution the applicator about possible risks associated with common pesticide chemicals.

"I told the young man, ‘Even more important to me is that you don't have a mask on. These are chemicals that will affect your unborn children,’” Karwoski said, explaining that such pesticides can affect sperm counts and alter the structure of reproductive organs, particularly in male fetuses. By the time she was done, she said the young man's eyes were watering. “I don't know if it was the irritant properties of the pesticides or what I was telling him.”
Ms. Karwoski was upset, but she saw it as an opportunity for education as well. "I'm incensed that this happened, but see it as a teachable moment," she said. "Lawn applications that contain these dangerous chemicals are routinely applied to lawns when they don't need to be. It's easy to have a beautiful yard and lawn without the application of chemicals that are a threat to children, pets and unborn fetuses."

Of the 30 commonly used lawn pesticides 19 are carcinogens, 13 linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 27 are irritants, and 11 can disrupt the hormone system. Pregnant women, infants and children, the aged and the chronically ill are at greatest risk from pesticide exposure. A new scientific study released in March 2006 shows that children are 65-164 times more sensitive than adults to some pesticides.

TAKE ACTION: Make sure your lawn is toxic-free. Visit www.pesticidefreelawns.org to sign the National Declaration on the Use of Toxic Lawn Pesticides and to find tips on how to have a safe, healthy lawn. Additionally, the number of organic landscape companies nationwide is rapidly growing. To find a landscaping company using least-toxic and non-toxic methods in your state, visit www.safetysource.org.