Health Risks of Weed Killer

Written by amanda l. webster Google
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Health Risks of Weed Killer
Caring for your lawn may be hazardous to your health. (she's mowing the lawn image by mavrick from

Most weed killers are broad spectrum biocides, meaning they are may cause harm to organisms aside from those they are intended to kill. Homeowners often do not realise the chemical mixtures they use to kill weeds on their lawns contain several inert ingredients that are more harmful than the chemicals that actually kill the weeds. According to Environmental Health News, "Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."

Kills Human Cells

Ingredients in weed killers that do not directly kill weeds are considered inert. These are generally added to the herbicide to act as solvents and preservatives. Just because a specific chemical is inert does not mean it is harmless. Polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, is one inert ingredient added to weed killers that, according to Environmental Health News, has been found to be "more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself."

Health Risks of Weed Killer
Herbicides are deadly to certain human cells. (Virus image by Denis Makarov from

Pesticide Poisoning

A number of homeowners fail to use even the simplest precautions when using herbicides on their lawns. Pesticide poisoning is a common health risk of using weed killers. According to the website of Jonathan Campbell, health consultant, its symptoms may include "headaches, nausea, fever, breathing difficulties, seizures, eye pains, vomiting, cramps, diarrhoea, sore nose, tongue or throat; burning skin, rashes, coughing, muscle pain, tissue swelling, blurred vision, numbness and tingling in hands or feet, incontinence, anxiety, irritability, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, fatigue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, spontaneous bleeding and temporary paralysis." These symptoms are often misdiagnosed as the common cold or flu, resulting in improper treatment.

Health Risks of Weed Killer
Pesticide poisoning is often misdiagnosed and treated improperly. (cold and flu image by Karin Lau from

Fertility Problems

Weed killers are used in parks, yards and farms worldwide with little thought to the harm they may cause to humans and animals in the vicinity. Herbicides can interfere with human hormone production, causing a variety of fertility problems. Pregnancy problems, including lowered fertility rates, low birth weight, abnormal fetal development and even miscarriages have been linked to the use of herbicides.


Some inert ingredients found in the typical herbicide formulation have been found to cause greater damage when mixed with herbicides than when used alone. Atrazine is one example of an inert ingredient that can cause DNA damage, which leads to cancer when combined with certain herbicides. However, atrazine alone does not have these same negative effects. It only becomes a carcinogen when combined with these particular herbicides. A French study, led by Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen, found that "the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels."

Health Risks of Weed Killer
Inert ingredients are often more dangerous when mixed with herbicides than when used alone. (chimie poison image by Danielle Bonardelle from

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