Have you heard that chewing gum takes seven years to make it through your digestive system? Or that swimming less than an hour after eating ensures you'll get a cramp and possibly drown?
Misunderstandings and misconceptions often gain credibility just from being repeated, regardless of whether or not the information is factual.
And while many of these myths are simply fun topics of conversation, failure to understand the facts about pesticides and fertilizers could affect the safety and well-being of your family and community.
Let's "debug" some of the common misunderstandings about these products:
- I've heard that we don't need to use pesticides. Is that true?
Actually, using pesticides helps protect us and our families from potential disease and other health concerns. Without the ability to control some insects—such as ticks and mosquitoes—diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease would be a greater threat to communities. Cockroaches allowed to remain and thrive in homes and schools can trigger or worsen asthma attacks.
Read more about pesticides and health.
Herbicides control weeds to reduce risk of allergies, skin irritations from toxic plants, sidewalk and roadway damage, and overgrowth throughout our communities. More than one-half of the United States population is allergic to poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac, and hay fever sufferers understand the pain caused by an increase in the ragweed population. In communities where weeds are not controlled using herbicides, many public places, such as bus stops and neighborhood curbsides, are overgrown, while sidewalks and roads are damaged due to weed growth between cracks and crevices.
- Are they safe for my family? And my pets?
Before a pesticide product can be sold or used, it must first be rigorously tested for its potential impact on human health. Only products determined to have a reasonable certainty of no harm to the environment or human health can be registered by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Pest control products are a great benefit to dogs and cats as they control the fleas and ticks that not only bug our pets, but cause disease and irritations. When using pesticides – as with all chemicals – it's imperative to follow the label instructions and to be mindful of animals in the area.
- I hear people talking about other options for controlling weeds and insects, like Integrated Pest Management. Can we use those options instead?
- Pesticide use plays an important role in integrated pest management (IPM). IPM is a targeted pest control system focused on putting the right pest control tool to work for each specific pest, time and place. To effectively keep dangerous pest populations at an acceptable level (which means no pests in some places like the school cafeteria), pesticide control is often necessity. Read more about IPM.
- Someone told me that fertilizer runs off into water sources. How do we keep that from happening?
- Various university research studies have determined that phosphorus from lawn fertilizer does not significantly contribute to nutrient runoff under natural conditions and normal situations. In fact, healthy, well-maintained lawns (fed with fertilizer) can help reduce water runoff and soil erosion by trapping and holding the water for reentry into the soil.1
- I thought products to control weeds were just to make our lawns look nice, but do they have a more important role?
Overgrown, unmaintained outdoor spaces are certainly eyesores, while well cared for parks, playgrounds, and backyards help communities thrive. Research shows the promotion of landscaping projects in communities, neighborhoods, housing projects and prisons led to a decrease in vandalism. Weed control keeps bus stops, fire hydrants, and public lawns and gardens easily accessible without weed overgrowth. Baseball fields and playgrounds, in addition to your backyard, are playable thanks to weed control, and can build stronger communities. Studies by the Human Environment Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign indicate that green spaces are gathering places that create close-knit communities and improve well-being.
In addition to the aesthetic effects, weeds left uncontrolled can increase allergy suffering and damage sidewalks and roads.