During the summer, I work outside in an office set up on the verandah. I recently saw a man coming by spraying the grounds. I called the lawn management company to learn that, indeed, the solution he sprays right outside my deck contains glyphosate.
This is timely because the news is buzzing with another victory over Monsanto – Dwayne Johnson, a gardener, was compensated $39 million in health damages and $250 million in punitive damages (Monsanto hid internal documents and research results). Tragically, Johnson is nearing his final days from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 80% of his body is covered in horrific boils.
1,100 other cases have been filed in against Monsanto.
To restore and maintain good health, we need to reduce the toxic load we are bombarded with each day.
This article will help you:
- Learn what glyphosate does to your body (and your kids and pets).
- Talk to your HOA about changes.
- Find safer solutions.
Part 1 – Glyphosate’s impact on your health
This section will cover the science behind glyphosate and glyphosate compounds and their impact on the human body and the environment.
Basic facts and relevant developments
On August 2018, Monsanto, the manufacturer of Round-Up, a brand name of an herbicide that uses glyphosates, was ordered to pay $39 million in damages to a gardener who is nearing his final days from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Furthermore, Monsanto was also asked to pay $250 million in punitive damaged for hiding internal documents and research results.
Gardeners and landscapers who use glyphosates assure homeowners that there are no risks involved as the exposure of the chemical is minimal. This is speculative because there is no evidence stating what amounts are safe. Furthermore, glyphosate is airborne which makes the exposure compounded.
Many of the studies found even in reputable scientific publications have been directly or indirectly funded by Monsanto, its subsidies, “associations” and “foundations” – therefore caution is needed when researching and drawing conclusions that glyphosate is safe.
In contrast, independent studies show (see below) that glyphosate is toxic and commercial glyphosate herbicide formulations, which contain extra added ingredients (adjuvants), are more toxic than glyphosate alone.
The WHO has classified glyphosates as 2A chemical which is described as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Monsanto accuses the organization of “cherry-picking” data.
“Standard” and pervasive use of a chemical does not make it acceptable or safe
Spraying with glyphosate has become so widely accepted that many homeowners, HOAs, gardeners, and lawn maintenance companies have become sensitized and accept it without questioning. This is not uncommon – for example, in the 1950-ties it was “standard” to X-ray pregnant women. Doctors used to smoke and prescribe it to their anxious patients. Bottom line: Just because something is widely used, it does not make it safe or acceptable.
Glyphosates are airborne
Even though many of the studies were conducted on the consumption of glyphosates, research shows that glyphosates are found not only in food and soil but also in the air and water. It is therefore plausible to state that areas that spray glyphosates, the residents, pets, and wildlife are being exposed too by just breathing contaminated airborne dust particles. Children and pets could be exposed while playing on a contaminated field.
We must also remember that our total exposure to glyphosates results not only from lawn maintenance but is the compounded result of exposure of water, air, and food that contain this toxic substance.
It is our responsibility as concerned and environmentally-conscious citizens to minimize the exposure, and contribute to the eventual blacklisting of glyphosate.
Impact on the environment
Quotes from organizations citing a concern:
The widespread and massive application of glyphosate herbicides has resulted in extensive contamination of the environment. A comprehensive 2014 study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) scientists on US water systems (including rivers, lakes, streams, lakes ponds, wetlands, precipitation, soil and sediment, soil water, ditches, drains, and groundwater).
The Journal of American Water Resource Association reported that over 9 years and across 38 states found glyphosate in 39.4% of samples and its principle metabolite AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) in 55% of samples. 70% of rain samples tested positive for glyphosate.
Medical conditions associated with the use of glyphosates
The below studies demonstrate glyphosate and glyphosate formulations cause serious health and environmental hazards, including disruption of hormonal systems, neurodegeneration, destruction of beneficial gut bacteria, damage to DNA, developmental and reproductive toxicity, birth defects, cancer, and neurotoxicity.
For a complete body of work, go to this collection of 210 studies showing the impact of glyphosates on humans, pets, animals, plants and the environment.
Health Impacts + Research Sources
1 | Genetic damage in children. (Study: Humans):
Children living within 500m of pesticide spraying areas showed more evidence of genetic damage than those living more than 3,000m away
2 | Glyphosate can be detected in the urine of farmers and their families in farms where Roundup pesticide is used. (Study: Humans):
Glyphosate biomonitoring for farmers and their families: results from the Farm Family Exposure Study.
3 | Glyphosate pesticide (Roundup) exposure is a risk factor for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (Study: Humans):
Pesticide exposure as risk factor for non-Hodgkin lymphoma including histopathological subgroup analysis
4 | Increased incidences of rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune condition) in women. (Study: Humans):
Rheumatoid Arthritis in Agricultural Health Study Spouses: Associations with Pesticides and Other Farm Exposures
5 | Linked to neurodegenerative conditions Parkinson’s, autism, Alzheimer’s disease. (Study: Cows):
Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases III: Manganese, neurological diseases, and associated pathologies
6 | Disruption of gut bacteria (overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria) which may result in a host of health issues from neurological, muscular, autoimmune. (Study: Cows and poultry):
Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases
7 | Bee colony collapse. (Study: Inspects):
Effects of field-realistic doses of glyphosate on honeybee appetitive behavior
8 | Found in the rain and river water. (Study: Water):
Widely Used Herbicide Commonly Found in Rain and Streams in the Mississippi River Basin
It is therefore only reasonable to approach glyphosate and any suspect chemicals with common sense and from the place of:
Better safe than sorry
Look before you leap
First, do no harm
Part 2 – How to approach the HOA
When I first contacted my HOA, I was met with quite a bit of skepticism. I’m making strides, though, as they plan to table the document I created with the board.
Here is a TEMPLATE version of this document
Feel free to use it in your community.
A few tips:
1 | Lead with education, not emotion
Depending on where you live, some HOAs might be very receptive but totally unaware of what the lawn contractor is using. For example, I live in Boulder, Colorado where people are very open-minded and health conscious, but my HOA was completely unaware of the products used.
Part 1 of this document will save you hours of research – present it to the HOA as facts. You might be angry right now (I certainly was when researching for this document) and sometimes emotions take over. People shut down when we get overly emotional or angry. Be passionate about the cause and people will listen to you.
2 | Find local alternatives
Shooting down the current solutions presents the HOA with the problem of having to find another contractor. Research the options beforehand so the board has something to work with. If you sit on the board, offer to get quotes from organic lawn maintenance companies.
How to find a contractor? Simply google it or look up companies on Yelp. Sorry, there is no one go-to resource I found that lists such companies nationwide.
3 | Get other neighbors involved
If you live in a more conservative area, the HOA might not be open to change. Get your neighbors involved – educate them (pets and children safety is powerful!) and get them to sign a simple petition sheet. If you get more than 50% votes, the HOA will consider it.
4 | Legal implications
One of the things I hate and love about the United States, depending on the situation, is the fear of liability. With the current body of scientific evidence, the HOA can be considered negligent for not taking precautionary action.
Furthermore, if you are a homeowner, check your maintenance agreement. For example, my friend’s agreement reads: “Landscape maintenance (or groundskeeping) is the art and vocation of keeping a landscape healthy, clean, safe and attractive, typically in a garden, yard, park, institutional setting or estate.”
As anyone will see from the above body of evidence, by no means spaying glyphosate (Roundup) be considered safe and healthy.
Lastly, don’t be deterred to speak up and fight if you are not a homeowner. I don’t own my place but my landlord is highly supportive and I got all my neighbors, some are board members, on my side as well. I’ve even been invited to speak at their upcoming board meeting.
5 | Examine your need for a perfect lawn.
My friend Katie, the Wellness Mama, wrote a great article about our obsession with perfect lawns – a great read I recommend before you see your HOA.
Part 3 – Safer Alternatives
Safer alternatives are better not only to us, the residents but also for the lawn management workers who are exposed to the toxic chemicals every day. With the existing body of evidence of the harmful effects of glyphosate on humans and the environment, as well as the rising number of court cases, it is in the interest of the lawn management provider to mitigate liability and consider switching to safer alternatives.
Organic lawn management is a specialty area. The premise is not only to attack the weeds but more so to nourish the grass, the soil microbiome (bacteria) so that the grass out strengthens the weeds.
To get more educated on creating and maintaining a healthy lawn, I recommend to read:
Ready to take some action, champion a change in your neighborhood and detox your lawns and air?
I’ve created this Word doc :
Effects of glyphosates on humans and animals, plus safer alternatives.
Download it as a template and use it in your community.
I hope you find it hopeful and more importantly: Take Action!