Spring in Illinois is a joyous time after months of winter grey. The warm sun, chirping birds and emerging flowers bring a feeling of rebirth to the state. With the first signs of warmth, many people start preparing with spring cleaning and preparing their outdoor lawn and gardens.
Three products are commonly used in lawn and gardening care: fertilizers, weed killers (herbicides) and insecticides.
Fertilizers are usually not a health issue for humans in trace amounts. However, fertilizers can cause pain or irritation if it gets into the eyes, nose, or mouth. It can also cause gastrointestinal (GI) problems if enough is unintentionally consumed. Some fertilizers may also contain insecticides or in the case of lawn fertilizer, weed killing chemicals (herbicides) are sometimes added to the mix.
Weed Killers, part of the a group of chemicals called herbicides, may have different ingredients depending on their purpose. A common weed killer product used for lawns are chlorophenoxy compounds such as 2,4 D. These products will restrict the growth of broadleaf weeds, but not the growth of mature grass. Unintentional or exploratory ingestions by children usually only cause mild irritation of the exposed tissue (eg, gastrointestinal mucosa, skin, eyes, and respiratory tract). If the product is not washed of the skin after use, it can also cause redness and irritation.
Another commonly used herbicide is glyphosate which kills both weeds and grass. Products that contain glyphosate, such as Round Up, usually are not an issue if children take a small exploratory lick or taste of the product. However, if consumed in larger amounts, these products can cause GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or pain in the mouth or throat pain. Prolonged contact with the skin can lead to skin redness and a chemical rash. Glyphosate may also be a carcinogen; this long term effect may be more closely associated with chronic, long-term use.
(Source: The Spruce.com)
Insecticides are a large group of different chemicals with some being more toxic than others. Chlorantraniliprole, for example, is found in grub killers used on lawns, but it is not significantly toxic to humans. Other chemicals, like carbamates and organophosphates are nerve poisons and can be very toxic. These latter products are related to warfare agents such as Sarin (used in the Tokyo subway attacks), VX (used to kill Kim Jong Nam) and Novichok (used recently in the assassination attempt of Russian activist Alexei Navalny).
In the event of a potential ingestion, skin or eye exposure with any of these products, the best thing to do is the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison information specialist. Our toxicology team includes specially trained nurses, pharmacists and physicians. The call is always free and confidential.
Keep your family and area secure with these safety tips:
Store Chemicals Properly:
- Store lawn and garden products in a safe place away from children and pets.
- If you keep your lawn and gardening supplies in a shed, keep it locked.
- If you store your lawn and garden products in your garage, make sure it’s kept in a locked cabinet or on a shelf children can’t reach.
- Store all chemicals in the original packaging – even if only a little bit is left over. This ensures there is no confusion with another product and that the instructions are kept with the chemicals.
Wear Proper equipment:
- Wear gloves. Lawn and garden products can cause chemical irritation or burns to your skin.
- Wear eye protection. It’s always important to wear glasses or goggles when working with these products to keep the granules, dust or spray out of your eyes. Click here for more IPC’s First-Aid for Eyes.
Follow Package Directions:
- Even if familiar with the use of lawn and garden products, reading the package is a simple precaution that can prevent personal injury or environmental damage. Follow all of the information on the package each time you use the product.
Apply lawn and garden products on mild days with low temperatures and low wind.
- Apply lawn and garden products when it’s not windy, as a strong breeze will blow the chemicals to other areas and make application uneven.
- Focus fertilizer application on planting areas. Avoid areas like sidewalks and driveways where the chemicals can wash off and contaminate nearby waterways.
- A drop spreader allows more control than a rotary spreader, which is more likely to scatter the fertilizer on walkways or other nearby areas.
- A light irrigation after applying the lawn products forces the fertilizer down to the soil without washing it away completely.
- Clean up excess fertilizer on sidewalks, patio, or driveway. This makes for a safer environment for young children and pets.
As always, if you have any questions, let us know in the comment box below or contact us at IPCadmin@team-iha.org.