Green Space: What’s in that Weed Killer?
Monday, 23 April 2012 00:00
With the advent of spring, one can’t help but notice all the media advertising for weed killers. The makers of Ortho Ground Clear boast that once applied, the product works so well that nothing will grow in that space for a year. Roundup proudly states that it kills plants in just six hours. So what is in these products that makes them so potent? And what are they doing to everything else in the environment?
The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide that penetrates the plant to the root and inhibits an enzyme necessary for the synthesis of amino acids. It kills quickly and is said to not affect the soil around the plant. Glyphosate is the most common herbicide used worldwide and is rated the least dangerous of all herbicides and pesticides. However, glyphosate has been shown to be very harmful to aquatic life, and the label on Roundup warns that it should not be used near fresh water, something we should think about living in the Blind Brook watershed.
Polyethoxylated tallow amine is an “inert” ingredient in Roundup, which is added to increase the compound’s ability to penetrate plants. A study in 2009 found that this ingredient is not inert at all. Glyphosate, POEA, and four different combinations of the two chemicals damaged human cells. Umbilical cord cells were especially sensitive to POEA. Glyphosate becomes more harmful when combined with POEA, and POEA alone is more deadly to cells than glyphosate. In Argentina, high rates of birth defects and miscarriages have been reported near soybean fields where crops are sprayed with Roundup, sad facts that support the findings of this study. Additionally, a 2008 study in Sweden linked exposure to the chemical combination in Roundup to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Ortho Weed Killer
Ortho products contain a combination of the chemicals above, as well as garlon 3A triclopyr, oxyfluorfen, imazapyr, fluazifop-p-butyl, pelargonic, MCPA, and dicamba. There has been very little study of these ingredients, and while Ortho claims they are safe, the EPA lists MCPA as a toxin and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies it as a potential carcinogen. The World Health Organization considers Garlon 3A triclopyr a hazardous substance. According to the Journal of Pesticide Reform, exposure to triclopyr causes genetic mutation in children and adults, increases the possibility of various cancers and damages fetal brain cells. Additionally, triclopyr is harmful to the environment, because it accumulates in the soil and prevents the absorption of nitrogen and nutrients. No wonder Ortho kills weeds. It wipes out everything in its path.
When it comes to weeds, nothing beats elbow grease! Take the time to get on your knees with an old knife to remove dandelions, garlic mustard, and grass on your paths and driveway. Try to tackle your weeds early in the season and frequently thereafter so that they don’t go to seed. Herbicides should be used as sparingly as possible and only as a last resort. One safe and cheap weed killer is vinegar. Check out ehow.com/how_4863528_organic-alternatives-roundup-weed-killer.html for fast and easy recipes for natural weed killers.