Is Your Lawn Care Poisoning Your Pets?

Organic lawn care

We’ve all heard of the importance of eating organic and reading the ingredients lists on the food we buy, but when was the last time you looked at the ingredients you’re putting into your yard?

As many as three-quarters of American adults feel its important to spend time in their yards. Of those who have taken steps to upgrade their outdoor spaces recently, over half spend six or more hours in their yards engaged in activities such as relaxing, gardening, or entertaining. With so much to be enjoyed by the outdoors, this is hardly surprising.

As many as 90% of homeowners feel its integral to their enjoyment of their yards that their yards be well-maintained. For most this means the leaves are picked up, the lawn is mowed, and the weeds and pests are removed or killed. While there are a number of enjoyable outdoor past-times such as relaxing and entertaining, weeding typically does not rank among them. Thankfully there are lawncare specialists and handy herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides to help the chore go faster.

Before you jump at the first specialist or pesticide you see and start spraying, know this: Not all lawncare specialists and pesticides are created equal, however. For instance, one of the most common weed control methods used by major lawncare companies is a compound known as 2,4-D that was also found in Agent Orange, the herbicide used during the Vietnam War as part of the herbicidal warfare program.

What is 2,4-D?

2,4-D is an herbicide commonly used to control broadleaf weeds. It works by changing the way a plant’s cells which carry water and nutrients grow. 2,4-D has been used as a pesticide since 1940, when it was used as a component in Agent Orange. While 2,4-D is not Agent Orange – - Agent Orange was a combination of 2,4-D and the herbicide 2,4,5-T – - it is still a danger to pets and the environment.

Why should 2,4-D be avoided?

Consumers can purchase it in liquid, granule, or dust form. Depending on the form it takes, 2,4-D has varying levels of toxicity and impacts on the environment. If ingested, 2,4-D causes vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, confusion, and aggressive behavior in most people and can lead to kidney failure or damage to the skeletal muscles in extreme cases. When it comes in contact with the skin or lungs, 2,4-D can cause sever irritation and burning sensations.

It is still possible to use products containing 2,4-D as a pesticide without having physical contact. What is harder to control, however, is if pets or children will come into contact with it after you’ve sprayed your yard. The greatest risk is to pets, who may come into contact with the product by brushing against or lying in plants that are still wet from spraying and then licking or grooming themselves afterwards. Cats and dogs who ingested 2,4-D experienced symptoms similar to humans: from vomiting and diarrhea to loss of appetite, lethargy, or convulsions.

What are safe lawn care alternatives?

If you enjoy spending time in your yard, or have children or pets who do, chances are your idea of safe and pet friendly lawncare is not spraying Agent Orange on your weeds. For pet friendly lawncare, look for the same things you would at the grocery store: organic.

It’s possible to use organic methods of controlling pests and weeds. Rather than turning to harmful chemicals, try cultivating your pests’ natural enemies. For instance, sprays using garlic or pepper will repel most insects; as will insecticide soap. Or, if you’d rather not face pests at all, look for pest-resistant turf varieties that will thrive in your climate.

The moral of the story:

When choosing lawn care products or a lawn care specialist, it’s important to know what chemicals are being sprayed around your yard. Just because a chemical isn’t on your dinner plate, doesn’t mean it isn’t getting beneath your skin or that of your pets and children. Knowing the chemicals being used in your yard is particularly important when seeking pet friendly lawncare. If environmentally friendly lawncare or pet friendly lawncare is important to you, look for an organic lawn care provider who doesn’t use harmful chemicals such as 2,4-D.

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