According to the EPA (2012 data), home and garden pesticides are a $3.33 billion market, and account for 24 percent of the pesticide expenditures in the United States. (The agriculture market accounts for 66 percent of the pesticide business in the U.S.; the industrial/commercial/government segment is 10 percent.)
Home and garden users in the U.S. apply 59 million pounds of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other related chemicals to their lawns and gardens every year.
The current research below investigates the health impacts of pesticides in residential use.
Greenlee, A. R., Ellis, T. M., & Berg, R. L. (2004). Low-dose agrochemicals and lawn-care pesticides induce developmental toxicity in murine preimplantation embryos. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112 (6), 703–709.
This study examined the effects of residential use of common pesticides on pregnancy, reproduction, and development. Low dose exposure of six herbicides, three insecticides, two fungicides, a desiccant, and a fertilizer commonly used in the Midwest were tested for their effects on mouse preimplantation embryo development (corresponds to first 5-7 days after human conception). Mice embryos were incubated with either single chemicals or mixtures of chemicals in amounts that were equal to common environmental exposure levels. When exposed to single chemicals, likelihood of cell death increased for 11 of the 13 chemicals. Development to initial embryo stages was halted for 3 of the 13 chemicals. All mixtures increased likelihood of cell death, with variations of percentage of cells that died.
Zahm, S. H., & Ward, M. H. (1998). Pesticides and childhood cancer. Environmental Health Perspectives, 106 (Suppl 3), 893–908.
“Children are exposed to potentially carcinogenic pesticides from use in homes, schools, other buildings, lawns and gardens, through food and contaminated drinking water, from agricultural application drift, overspray, or off-gassing, and from carry-home exposures of parents occupationally exposed to pesticides. Parental exposure during the child’s gestation or even preconception may also be important. Malignancies linked to pesticides in case reports or case-control studies include leukemia, neuroblastoma, Wilms’ tumor, soft-tissue sarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and cancers of the brain, colorectum, and testes. Although these studies have been limited by nonspecific pesticide exposure information, small numbers of exposed subjects, and the potential for case-response bias, it is noteworthy that many of the reported increased risks are of greater magnitude than those observed in studies of pesticide-exposed adults, suggesting that children may be particularly sensitive to the carcinogenic effects of pesticides.”
Jay P. Overmyer, Raymond Noblet, Kevin L. Armbrust, Impacts of lawn-care pesticides on aquatic ecosystems in relation to property value, Environmental Pollution 137 (2005) 263-272, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2005.02.006
“Four streams flowed through residential neighborhoods of Peachtree City, GA, USA, with differing mean property values and two reference streams were outside the city limits. A series of correlation analyses were conducted comparing stream rank from water quality and physical stream parameters, habitat assessments, benthic macroinvertebrate metric, pesticide toxicity and metal toxicity data to determine relationships among these parameters. Significant correlations were detected between individual analyses of stream rank for pesticide toxicity, specific conductance, turbidity, temperature and dissolved oxygen with benthic macroinvertebrate metrics.”
Shelia Hoar Zahm and Aaron Blair, Pesticides and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Cancer Res October 1 1992 (52) (19 Supplement) 5485s-5488s
The incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) has increased over 50% in the last 15 years. While small increases in risk of NHL among farmers have been observed in general occupational surveys, recent studies focusing on specific pesticides have observed much larger risks. Frequent use of certain types of herbicides, in particular, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (commonly known as 2,4-D), has been associated with 2- to 8-fold increases of NHL. Lymphoid tumors in dogs have also been associated with dog owner use of 2,4-D and commercial lawn pesticide treatments. There are much fewer data linking NHL to other types of pesticides, but triazine herbicides, organophosphate insecticides, fungicides, and fumigants have also been associated with increased risk of NHL. Pesticide exposures are widespread in the general population due to use on private lawns, golf courses, and elsewhere. Since the use of pesticides has increased dramatically preceding and during the time period in which the incidence of NHL has increased, they could have contributed to the rising incidence of NHL.
Paul Robbins, Annemarie Polderman and Trevor Birkenholtz, Lawns and Toxins An Ecology of the City, Cities, Vol. 18, No. 6, pp. 369–380, 2001
“This paper surveys the problems of contemporary urban ecology through the lens of lawn chemical usage, exploring the difficulty of explaining and managing urban ecological dilemmas that, though built from the disaggregated choices of individuals, aggregate into large and serious issues. Introductory discussion surveys the seriousness of lawn chemicals as urban nonpoint pollution sources and suggests why the issue, and problems like it, is understudied. Analysis proceeds with a case study from the United States city of Columbus, Ohio, utilizing formal survey techniques and analysis of county assessor’s data. The results suggest lawns and lawn care chemicals are expanding with urban sprawl and that users of high-input lawn chemical systems are more likely to be wealthy, well-educated, and knowledgeable about the negative environmental impacts of the actions than non-users. Further investigation demonstrates the instrumental logics of homeowners in pursuit of property values but also points to the moral and community-oriented institutions that enforce and propel high chemical use. The conclusions point to policy options for dealing with the lawn chemical dilemma but suggest the difficulties of circumventing the deeply structured roots of the problem.”
Haith, D. and Duffany, M. (2007). “Pesticide Runoff Loads from Lawns and Golf Courses.” J. Environ. Eng., 10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9372(2007)133:4(435), 435-446.
This study examined the runoff loads of 29 pesticides that are commonly used on residential lawns and golf courses. Both the amount of pesticide used and weather conditions during application were taken into consideration. Each of the 29 chemicals was tested for four conditions: lawn, greens, fairways, and city. Results were summarized as averages for annual and 1 in 10 year maximum annual pesticide loads. Average pesticide load varied greatly with type of pesticide used, weather conditions, and location of application. Runoff increased in humid conditions and was lower in both temperate and dry conditions.
Haith, D. (2011). “National Assessment of Pesticide Runoff Loads from Grass Surfaces.” Journal of Environmental Engineering, 10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870.0000389, 761-769. Online publication date: 1-Sep-2011.
37 chemicals registered for use on lawns and golf courses were tested for amount of runoff. Silulations were preformed using average weather conditions for nine US cities. Amount of runoff varied greatly with type of pesticide used, surface the pesticide was applied on, and city. Runoff amount was closely associated with the amount of precipitation in each city, with the mose humid cities experiencing the most runoff when compared to more dry or temperate regions.
Dich, J., Zahm, S. H., Hanberg, A., & Adami, H. O. (1997). Pesticides and cancer. Cancer Causes & Control, 8(3), 420-443.
Some contaminants, other than the active ingredients, in commercial pesticide formulations also may pose a risk. In humans, arsenic compounds and insecticides used occupationally have been classified as carcinogens. Studies have linked phenoxy acid herbicides or contaminants in them with soft tissue sarcoma (STS) and malignant lymphoma; organochlorine insecticides are linked with STS, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), leukemia, and, less consistently, with cancers of the lung and breast; organophosphorous compounds are linked with NHL and leukemia; and triazine herbicides with ovarian cancer. Further studies are needed with detailed exposure assessment for individual pesticides to determine specific risk factors for each of these herbicide and pesticide types. Future studies must also take things like safety, frequency of exposure, and occupational hazards into consideration.
Knapp, D. W., Peer, W. A., Conteh, A., Diggs, A. R., Cooper, B. R., Glickman, N. W., … & Murphy, A. S. (2013). Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application. Science of the Total Environment, 456, 34-41.
Herbicide use on residential lawns has previously been linked to bladder cancer in dogs. This study tested 3 common herbicides on various conditions of grass (ie green, wet, dry, recently mowed) and measured the amount of residue present after 1, 24, 48, and 72 hours. Additionally, dog urine was tested for traces of each of the three chemicals, both of dogs that came into direct contact with sprayed lawns and dogs that did not. 14 of the 35 dogs tested had detectible amounts of chemicals in their urine before lawn treatment, 19 of 25 had chemicals present in urine after treatment. 4 of 8 dogs from untreated households showed trace amounts in their urine, suggesting drift from other areas or contact with either chemically treated lawns or other dogs that had previously come into contact with herbicides. Future research should compare exposure in humans and dogs
Zahm, S. H. (1997). Mortality study of pesticide applicators and other employees of a lawn care service company. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 39(11), 1055-1067.
32,600 employees of a lawn care company were tested after reports that non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) is linked to the common herbicide 2,4-D. Most of the employees tested were young and in good health with short duration of employment and close follow-up. Compared to average US population, the cohort tested had lower mortality rate overall. 45 cancer deaths were observed, 59.6% of which were expected. Bladder cancer mortality rate was increased, but two of the three observed deaths had no correlation to pesticide exposure. Four deaths were due to NHL two of which were male employees and three of which had been employed for three or more years. No other cause of death was increased among employees.