Weed Killer Hazards

Written by lee morgan
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Weed Killer Hazards
Some weed killers may pose health threats to those who are exposed to them. (Backlit Weeds image by Jim Mills from Fotolia.com)

Using a weed killer is sometimes necessary to destroy invasive plants that threaten to overtake the garden or smother out the grass on the lawn. While effective in accomplishing the desired results, they should also be used with caution. There are a number of potential hazards associated with weed killers that can affect the lawn and could be health concerns. Most products have been tested extensively and are generally regarded as safe, but you should be aware of some of the potential hazards in order to take necessary precautions.

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Pregnant women should steer clear of herbicides and the fumes they emit as a matter of precaution. While there is some debate about the true hazards associated with some weed killing products, there is enough concern in the scientific community to warrant caution. According to Environmental Health News, the inert ingredients in some weed killers have the potential to interfere with hormone production. This effect could potentially lead to complications with pregnancy, including low birth weight and miscarriage.

Birth Defects

Atrazine is an active ingredient in many weed killers that has been linked to birth defects, according to "Science News." Runoff from areas treated with these weed killers allows this chemical to enter the drinking water supply where it has proven to deform certain species of amphibians and fish. The seasonal use of this product corresponds with a seasonal increase in birth defects throughout the same portion of the year. Babies born during this time in areas where atrazine is in heavy use tend to have higher rates of spina bifida, Down syndrome and other defects by around 3 per cent, says "Science News."


Brain cancer is the second most common form of cancer in children behind leukaemia, and it appears as though young children who are around parents who use herbicides, pesticides and fungicides around the house are more likely to develop it, says Natural News. They cite a study in "Environmental Health Perspectives" that investigated 400 fathers and 250 mothers who admitted to this type of chemical exposure over the first two years of the child's life. While it is unknown why or how these chemicals link to the development of brain cancer in children, the numbers showed a significant increase in cases among those who had been exposed versus those who hadn't.

Unintended Grass Targets

Although it may pale in comparison to the health issues, one hazard that is obvious among weed killing products is the hazard to the rest of your lawn or garden. Some herbicides are formulated to specifically target the plants you wish to eradicate, but many others kill everything on contact. Wind can cause the product to inadvertently land on desirable garden plants, causing damage or death. Overapplication can lead to dead spots in the lawn.

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