After discussing the importance of not using chemicals on their lawn, my friend hired a gardener. She never saw him weeding the grass, but it no longer grew weeds. After a few months of this, she asked if he was using chemicals to treat the grass. “Oh no, we don’t use anything,” he answered. “No chemicals – just a little Roundup.”
Roundup has been in the news recently as the EPA recently instructed herbicide manufacturers to remove Proposition 65 cancer warning labels from products made with glyphosate, the pesticide used in the product.
In the United States, more than 18,000 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits alleging that Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers caused their cancer. Last year, the first such case was decided in California and found that Monsanto – which had been acquired by Bayer – should have warned consumers about cancer risks from Roundup; the plaintiff was awarded $78 million, which Bayer is appealing.
Is “a little Roundup” Safe?
This is an important question — especially for families with small children. Let’s look at the facts:
- Glyphosate has been linked to human health problems including celiac disease.
- In 2015, the World Health Organization determined that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
- In 2017, glyphosate was added to California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.
Does this mean you need to be worried that your child will get cancer from playing on the lawn? Absolutely not! The health benefits of playing and exercising outside far outweigh potential dangers. However, you can be proactive about reducing the amount glyphosate your family is exposed to.
Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Exposure to Roundup
- Eliminate Roundup from your yard, and if you have someone helping you with gardening, make sure you inspect the products they’re using on the plants. There are many natural weedkillers available (just make sure to read labels on those, as “natural” is an unregulated term) and you can also make your own by mixing a cup of table salt and a tablespoon of liquid dish detergent into a gallon white vinegar, then spraying on weeds.
- When choosing food products that contain oats – like cereals and bars – look for USDA Certified Organic, which means they are not produced with pesticides or herbicides (or ingredients made with these chemicals). This year, the Environmental Working Group found glyphosate in Cheerios, Nature Valley, and Fiber One products.
- Talk with family, friends, and neighbors about eliminating this toxic chemical from their lives, too. Because glyphosate can “drift” when sprayed in the air and also travel through groundwater to larger areas, one family’s use can affect the greater community.
- Leave your shoes at the door, to avoid tracking glyphosate – and other toxic chemicals like lead – into your home. This is especially important if you have small children, who spend a lot of time playing on floors.
- When your family returns from a park or public space which may treat weeds with glyphosate, make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly to remove any trace of the weedkiller. When picnicking, use a non-chemical wipe to clean hands before eating.
If you want to take this a step further, talk with your children’s school about glyphosate. Are they using it on the grounds – and if so, can they stop? If this is a district decision, try to implement common-sense practices like washing hands after the students come in from playing outside, then consider coordinating a larger parent group to petition decisionmakers. Petitions are popping up around the country, and many have been successful at eliminating Roundup at schools. It may seem like a small thing to start a petition, but this action can have big consequences in protecting your family’s health.