Pesticides are chemical mixtures (poisons) designed to kill living things. Pesticides used for lawns and landscapes include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. While pesticides can be effective at first, pests eventually develop resistance to these chemical pesticides, requiring even more toxic formulations to be used.

Pesticide use also kills beneficial insect species and beneficial soil microorganisms, which naturally outcompete pest populations and maintain a healthy and balanced soil biology. Pesticides are very persistent and move through the environment, contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. They can also harm important insect pollinators, birds, aquatic organisms and both wild and domestic animals.

When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962, she raised public awareness about the effects of pesticide use on human health and the environment. Today, more than 50 years after she drew the world's attention to this threat, the use of pesticides has only increased. An impressive and growing body of peer-reviewed science links lawn pesticide exposures to human cancers, neurological and respiratory problems, endocrine and immune system dysfunction, reproductive harm and environmental illnesses, including multiple chemical sensitivity.

Fast Facts

  • Pesticides are very persistent and move through the environment, contaminating our air, our water and our food supply.


  • Pesticide exposure is linked to an increased risk of cancer, neurological and respiratory problems, endocrine and immune system dysfunction, reproductive harm and environmental illnesses.


  • Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure.

Children are particularly susceptible to the hazards associated with pesticide use. This is in part due to their small size, rapidly developing bodies and typical behaviors, such as hand to mouth activity, playing and rolling on treated lawns and on indoor carpets and floors where pesticides have been tracked inside. They also have immature immune, detoxification and elimination systems, leaving them less able than adults to handle chemicals insults.

Pets, like children, are also disproportionately exposed and affected by pesticide exposures. They too roll on lawns and make direct contact with grass surfaces with their noses and mouths. They also lick their paws and fur, which can be contaminated with pesticide residues. Studies show that dogs living in homes where lawn pesticides are used have a higher incidence of canine lymphoma.

Things you can do:

• Avoid using pesticides on your lawn; use natural methods to grow healthy grass which is more resistant to pests.

• Boric acid, diatomaceous earth and bait traps are all good alternatives to toxic pesticides for treating indoor pests.

• Keep food preparation areas clean; fill cracks and holes where pests can enter living spaces.

Pesticides Resources
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Related Websites
  • The ChildSafe School - This award-winning program promotes and provides a framework for  a comprehensive approach to reducing environmental toxins in schools. Core issues include diesel exhaust from idling school buses, pesticides used on school grounds, cleaning products for interior use and emerging environmental health issues, including artificial turf fields, wireless technologies and fragrances.

  • How Green Is My Town?This online program, which addresses the three inextricably linked issues of sustainability, climate change and environmental health, provides a blueprint for 50 discreet issues, and contains the resources, templates, science and other essential tools to help every town achieve its environmental priorities.

  • - In 2021, Grassroots led a coalition of groups and individuals to successfully lobby for the elimination of toxic pesticides from all New York City parks. This is our campaign website.

  • Beyond Pesticides - Is a national non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. lobbying for government regulation of chemical pesticides. The organization works with local governments across the country to implement natural turf management programs.

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Related Podcasts from Green Street

The Glyphosate Legacy with Dr. Stephanie Seneff

Pass the Pesticides, Please with Jay Feldman

The Hubris of Truing to Fool Nature with Carey Gillam