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Consumer Reports experts outline lawn products' harm to nature

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Posted at 9:23 AM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 10:23:48-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF) — Trying to keep up with your neighbor’s immaculate, green lawn? Experts say that may not be such a great idea.

It turns out, putting all of those products like fertilizer and weed be gone on your lawn isn't so good for the environment. Lush green lawns are big business, with consumers spending about $35 billion per year on lawn and garden products.

Susan Rubin, an expert gardener, is passionate about the environment. Her “lawn” is a field of wildflowers and dandelions.

“I’m trying to do everything in my power to cut my carbon footprint, so by just not having to water my lawn, by not mowing and blowing and burning gas," Rubin said.

Some synthetic lawn-care products may be helpful to your yard in the short term, but over time, experts say they can actually harm beneficial organisms in the soil and won’t lead to a healthy ecosystem in the long run.

Consumer Reports says research has linked many lawn chemicals, even at low levels, to potential health problems

“You can track pesticides into your home from the lawn, where they can get into the dust on your floor and your carpet. And then children can be exposed to that. Several common lawn pesticides are suspected to be linked to a variety of issues like diabetes and reproductive and developmental problems," said Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports health editor.

Lawn chemicals don’t always stay on your lawn. Fertilizers can be a source of water pollution, sometimes sinking deep into the soil and into local waterways or groundwater.

The pesticide and fertilizer industry maintains that the EPA’s approval of existing lawn pesticides means the chemicals should be safe to use as directed on the label. But many safety advocates feel the EPA’s testing requirements are outdated.

“Standard EPA tests don’t reflect the latest in toxicological sciences. Therefore, some significant effects of pesticides can go undetected," said Michael Hansen PhD, Consumer Reports scientist.

Some say a weed is just a plant growing in the wrong place. The right place could be your front yard.

“It's about changing our aesthetic. I see this as beautiful," Rubin said.

Consumer Reports says it is possible to move away from conventional lawn care. It just requires a bit of strategy, a few new habits, and some fresh ideas about what your yard should look like. In other words, they're saying accept and embrace your weeds.