Doctors Raise Red Flags About Dangers Of Lawn Care Sprays

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Although some homeowners use pesticides to protect their backyards from unwanted invaders like weeds and insects, doctors are raising a red flag about chemical concerns, CBS 2’s Vinita Nair reported.

Joe Holland has been in the lawn care business for 30 years. His work requires him to be around a variety of chemicals, which is why he always tells his workers to take precautions.

“You always have to protect yourself when you’re using any chemicals, no matter the grade. You have to wear a long, long-sleeve shirt, long pants,” he said.

The chemicals his workers use are known as herbicides and insecticides— designed to kill invasive plants and ward off bugs like mosquitos. The most common chemicals used in the two are glyphosate, 2,4-D and permethrin.

“I think the fact that they have been around for a long time engenders a false sense of security,” Dr. Phil Landrigan said, professor of pediatrics at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

Landrigan has been studying the effects of the chemicals on humans, particularly in children and pregnant women. This week, he presented his findings at a congressional briefing on the health risks of overexposure.

“There is also concern that pesticides of all kinds can damage the developing nervous system and can result in learning disabilities in children, behavioral problems and possibly chronic diseases like Parkinson’s,” he said at the briefing.

Landrigan told Nair some chemicals can stay in someone’s system for years.

“Older pesticides like DDT can stay in the human body for years, even decades,” he said.

But Dr. Josh Bloom of the American Council of Science and Health says the chemicals have been used in the United States for at least 60 years and pose no risk.

“There are so many hundreds of things more dangerous in everyday life than this that it is not even worth thinking about,” Bloom said.

Nair reported some states like New York require landscapers to put down flags as a warning to residents that a lawn has been freshly treated.

Holland says his clients regularly ask about the chemicals he’s using.

“The questions I get the most are, ‘When can my kids and my dog go out on the lawn?’ And my answer is usually 24 hours.  If it doesn’t get watered for two days, we recommend you don’t go out there for two days,” Holland said.

There is no scientific standard about how long to stay off the lawn after it’s treated, Nair reported, but Landrigan wants to see that change.

Holland said he and his workers mark each lawn with flags and instruct homeowners when it’s safe to venture out into their yards.

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