Q: I'm pregnant and considering switching to a green lawncare company, because I've heard that the pesticides most companies use can be harmful to children. Is it possible to have a kid-safe lawn that still looks relatively well-kept? And would you recommend some companies in the CT area? - Lily, CT
A: You're right to be concerned, Lily. Federal reports suggest kids between ages six and 11 exhibit higher levels of lawn pesticides in their bodies than those in other age groups, and pesticides have been linked to many types of cancers, asthma, birth defects and endocrine disruption. Children are more vulnerable because they have lower body weights, and because their enzymatic, metabolic and immune systems aren't yet fully developed.
The good news is that Connecticut happens to be ahead of the game when it comes to safeguarding kids from pesticides. For the most part, your state has banned the use of lawn-care pesticides at public elementary and middle schools — exceptions are made for the control of ticks and stinging insects — so you won’t have to worry about letting your son or daughter playing in chemicals at recess time.
The other good news is that, yes, you can maintain your lush, green, all-American lawn without using chemical pesticides or herbicides. The secret is to create healthy soil. Try fertilizing periodically with fresh compost, and allowing grass clippings to decompose on the lawn after you mow. You can also raise the blade on your lawn mower; the taller grass will shade out weeds competing for sunlight. Watch this Safe Lawns video for lots more natural landscaping pointers. And if you're not a Do-It-Yourselfer, the organics-based NaturaLawn of America has some Connecticut franchisees. Safelawns.org also suggests several other natural landscaping resources, as well as contractors.
Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.