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The Tragedy of Lawns and the Poison in Turf

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

dangers of lawn chemicals

Story at-a-glance -

  • Large swaths of chemical- and water-intensive grass span 163,800 km2, or 40.47 million acres, in the U.S., which is an area three times larger than any irrigated crop
  • Lawns, which are mowed so often that they’re unable to produce even seeds, do little to support local wildlife and are so barren, environmentally speaking, that some experts compare them to concrete
  • Sixty-seven million pounds of pesticides are used on U.S. lawns every year, and 580 million gallons of gasoline are used in lawnmowers
  • Native plants, with their deep root systems, absorb and retain water better than lawns, which have shallower roots; rather than soaking into the earth, rainwater runs off lawns, carrying chemicals into nearby waterways
  • According to the U.S. EPA, of the 320 gallons of water the average American family uses every day, 30% is for outdoor uses; of this, more than half goes toward watering lawns and gardens, an amount totaling nearly 9 billion gallons daily
  • Synthetic turf, which is used as a grass replacement in parks, sports stadiums, schools and other areas across the U.S., poses another environmental threat in the form of PFAS chemicals
  • When it comes to your yard, the less lawn, the better; choose native plants and food-producing plants instead

Some might call it an obsession, others a passion, but the quest to achieving a perfectly manicured green lawn is one shared by a significant number of Americans. One survey found that 81% of Americans have a lawn, which necessitate an extreme amount of resources, both financial and in the form of sweat equity, to maintain.

What has become a symbol of the American dream is, however, more of a tragedy. The Washington Post even described lawns as a “soul-crushing timesuck” that most of us are better off without, and this isn’t too far off. What is even worse than the thankless hours they demand for maintenance, however, is the damage they’re doing to the environment, one yard at time.

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