Girl Planting seeds
handsGreener Lawns
While lawn care is a time-honored summer ritual, the water, chemicals and energy used to achieve beautiful results often comes with a large environmental expense.  However, weed-free, healthy grass doesn’t have to be a detriment to the planet and human health.  If the $35 billion dollar lawn and garden industry is any indication, growing consumer preference for safer weed and pest control means creating a healthy lawn that is healthy for people is catching on.  (1)
The EPA sites green landscaping (also known as beneficial, environmentally-friendly or sustainable landscaping) as “a way of designing and maintaining beautiful yards, gardens, and larger landscapes to reduce harm to the environment, save time and money with lower maintenance and have healthier places to work and play.”  (2)
Green lawn care is critical for households with children, whose frequent hand-to-mouth activity and close-to-the-ground play make them particularly susceptible to the health affects of toxic products.  The rapidly developing bodies of very young children and of adolescents also makes these age groups particularly susceptible.
Conventional weed-control products can contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, respiratory irritants and other ingredients that harm short and long-term health.  (For information on how the EPA evaluates pesticides for carcinogenic potential, see:  If you own products containing conventional lawn chemicals, call your local sanitation department to find out how to safely dispose of them.  Many towns have hazardous waste collection days when these items are accepted.  Do not pour hazardous chemicals down the drain or dispose of them in the regular trash.
Whether you handle lawn care yourself or use a service, the same guidelines should apply.  Talking to your lawn care company, and likewise requesting that your local garden center carry safer plant care products, are ways to “vote with your wallet.”  Because of increasing demand, organic lawn care companies are sprouting up all over the country, and the availability and selection of non-toxic products is also increasing. 
Safer lawn care practices include:
    Cutting grass to 3” height makes it difficult for weeds to take root and thrive.
    Spraying or pouring vinegar directly on weeds or putting down rock salt.  
    Using an organic-based (versus chemical-based) fertilizer such as AGGRAND Organic Fertilizer (
    Using an organic plant food such as Terra Cycle Plant Food (available at over 7,000 locations in North America including Home Depot, Walmart and CVS).  
    For plant fungus, Green Cure Fungicide ( has proven effective against powdery mildew, blights, molds and other plant diseases in laboratory tests.  Tested by plant pathologist Dr. Ken Horst of Cornell University, it uses potassium bicarbonate as the active ingredient instead of toxic chemicals.
    Schultz Garden Safe® line of plant care products are available online and at garden stores.
    When choosing a mower, keep in mind that the EPA reports “tens of millions of gallons of gasoline are spilled each year while refueling garden equipment”.  Push mowers eliminate the need for fuel and cut down on noise pollution. (2)
    If you use a lawn care service, discuss using organic methods, or choose a service that specifically uses least-toxic methods (NaturaLawn of America -
    For a full listing of resources, see the "Organic Lawn Care" and "Pesticides" sections on The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology’s Helpful Resources page:
    A complete guide to non-toxic pest control is available at:
    For more information on organic lawn care, visit: 
    Bounds, Gwendolyn and Ilan Brat.  The Wall Street Journal.  “Turf Wars:  Armed with Chicken Manure, Organic Lawn Product Makers are Battling for Your Backyard”  April 15, 2006, p. P1. 
    EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Guide to Green Landscaping,
Cleaner Pools
Summer fun at a backyard or community pool offers healthy exercise and recreation, but traditional pool chemicals can expose swimmers to chlorine and other potentially harmful chemicals. Chlorine wreaks havoc on skin and hair by stripping away natural oils, causing skin to dry out and hair shafts to break.  As the chemical of choice for pool sanitation and municipal water treatment systems, chlorine is designed to attack and destroy organic materials.  (1)  
The water chlorination process causes a reaction with natural organic substances in the water to form trihalomethanes, or THMs.  Chloroform is one THM typically found in the highest concentration in swimming pools.  It has been shown to be carcinogenic in laboratory animals.  Pool chemicals are absorbed through the skin and respiratory system, with the surrounding air in indoor pools posing a particular hazard of THM exposure.  (2)
With safer residential and commercial options available, health risks can be minimized.  There are several systems available, all designed to eliminate or significantly reduce the need for pool chemicals.  Options include:
    Pool ozone generators - Ozone has been proven to purify and sanitize pool and spa water faster and more effectively than traditional chemical methods. Water is treated up to three thousand times faster with ozone, eliminating undesirable by-products such as chloramines and bromamines (created by use of traditional chlorine and bromine chemicals). Ozone's primary by-product is oxygen. (3)
    Pool ionizers -  Ionizers can save 70% to 90% on the cost of chemicals by killing bacteria and algae in the pool.  To maintain clean, clear water the only other item needed is a sanitizer (preferably non-chlorine) added about once a week to shock and kill all the organics in the pool.  Options include a solar ionizer that combines solar electric power generation with ionization. (3)
    UltraViolet Light System – UV light sterilizes pool water, destroys chloramines and other toxic by-products of chlorine and helps to control algae.  Chlorine use is reduced by up to 90%, improving water quality and atmospheric conditions.  (4)    
Helping to reduce exposures to potentially harmful chemicals can ensure that summer activities are healthy for people and the planet.  For more information, including technical specifications and cost, consult the sites below. 
(1) ECOSmarte Planet Friendly West
(2) Benoît Lévesque, et al. Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 102, No. 12.  Dec. ‘94, Updated June ‘98.  “Evaluation of Dermal and Respiratory Chloroform Exposure in Humans.”
(3) Sunshine Pool Products, LLC - and Floatron Solar Ionizer -
(4) Sentry Ultraviolet, Inc.-
CleanerPools –
Disclaimer:  The products cited in this article are for informational purposes only.  The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology® does not endorse these products.
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