By Trish Holder
I’m a bad mom.
Not only did I send out my seventeen-year-old-son to spray Roundup® on a huge planted hill on the south and west corner of our yard the other day, I forgot to remind him to wash his hands afterward. And it haunts me.
I wasn’t crazy about using the herbicide in the first place, but keeping this large area weeded could literally consume an hour each day of summer even after we get it under control. Of course, we don’t do that, so it only takes about a week for the weeds to take over. Soon they are so densely mixed in with the rest of the plants, that you can’t dip your hand down to pull without fearing a snake or spider bite.
I swore off the job last year when my hand came within an inch of the largest spider I’d ever seen in my life. (I’m sure my neighbors recall the blood-curdling scream). Since then, my husband has bore the burden, albeit sporadically. Lately it’s become a regular chore of my son. But even he declared solidly the other day, “Mom, I’m not weeding the corner part of the hill anymore. I’m literally afraid of getting bit by a snake.”
I feel you, dude.
DNA Damage? Seriously?
I knew I couldn’t continue to ask him to do something I’m afraid of doing myself. And it’s not that we’ve actually seen any snakes there but this is North Carolina and it is one wet, icky summer. Heck — snapping turtles have been known to cross our yard! Surely a copperhead is not out of the realm of possibility. Lord knows we’ve seen black widows.
So what did we decide to do? We sent the kid out with a spray tank of Roundup.
What can I say? I was between a rock and a weedy place. I was busy. I wanted the weeds gone. And I wanted my kid to get off his butt. I didn’t feel good about it. I know herbicides aren’t good for the environment and I know they are toxic. But I also know that people use them all the time. Why, even just the other day, a well-seasoned gardener told me to go ahead and use the Roundup on the hill for weeds. “It is totally gone in 10 days!” he said.
Then, the morning after I send my son out to spray for weeds, I run across an online article referencing a study published in the journal, Archives of Toxicology, which concluded that there really is no safe level of exposure to glyphosate, the key ingredient in the Roundup herbicide. According to the findings, Roundup, which is applied by the tens of thousands of tons a year all around the world, is still toxic to human DNA even when diluted to a mere 0.02 percent of the dilution amount at which it is currently applied to GM food crops. The articles about this one topic are as thick as the crabgrass on my hill.
Pick Your Poison: Weeds, Spiders, or Glyphosate
It all sounded too awful to be true, so I decided to inspect the bottle of Roundup we kept in the garage. I thought maybe our Roundup was….I don’t know….different.
It wasn’t. Glyphosate was the main ingredient, and sure enough, taped to the bottle was an eight-page mini-booklet of safety instructions and warnings.
I kept thinking, “Geez. I didn’t even tell him to wash his hands.” Meanwhile, I was scrubbing my own hands furiously after just picking up the bottle.
It sounds silly, I know. And some people would say, “Damn – you mean you have to remind your seventeen-year-old son to wash his hands?” Frankly, I had the same thought. After all, I’m not one of those moms. I haven’t told my son to wash his hands since he was eight – I just sort of assumed he was doing it. But this was the first time I’d (somewhat) knowingly asked him to handle a toxic chemical. How would he know it was dangerous if I didn’t tell him? He wouldn’t know a carcinogen if it wore sneakers and a t-shirt that said, “Dude, I cause cancer!”
It turns out that cancer (the obvious) is just the tip of the iceberg. Roundup has been linked to causing imbalanced hormones in children, DNA damage, low testosterone, endocrine disruption, liver cancer, meningitis, infertility, skin cancer, kidney damage, and more. That concerns me. I am one of those moms.
So, it looks like someone in the family is going to have to overcome their fear of spiders and snakes. This is not welcome news. But what’s a mom to do?