Abandoning Roundup® In My War on Weeds

Glyphosate in Roundup is toxic

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?

6 Responses »

  1. Good afternoon, Trish
    You can have your son weed along side of you when you are weeding the back hill. One really has to be careful when they are using pesticides.
    Another well written article.
    Keep up the good work.
    It’s a pleasure to know you.
    Thank you
    Del Barbray
    Broker Associate
    Weichert, Realtors-Galster Group

  2. I hear you on the risks vs. rewards of using chemical herbicides like Roundup. And even though I do scrub down after doing any yard work (not sure my wife tolerate me otherwise), I hate to think about the exposure I may have had during my 18 years of lawn maintenance. I guess the trick is to be disciplined about using more natural ways to inhibit weeds, like an extra dense layer of mulch. One article I read even suggested that putting a six inch layer of shredded newspaper or kraft paper under several inches of mulch is even more effective. Mulch isn’t cheap but after looking at the jungle of weeds that seem to pop up in my yard in just one week, I may try to double up next year.

    Now if I can just overcome my intense desire to nuke the Bermuda grass in my lawn…

  3. Hi Trish, Thank you for your very entertaining story.
    I certainly do understand your underlying concern. It’s one of those issues where I wonder – Will I / Won’t I
    I have never liked to use pesticides, and have avoided doing so until just recently. As the body is more and more reluctant to keep it’s promises, I have guiltily succumbed to the temptation. This is for lawn & pavers only. With the garden, I use the newspaper and mulch idea and that works quite well as is verified by the weeds in the areas that I haven’t gotten to as yet.
    I realise that using a little bit of pesticide is probably as bad as using a big bit – but what is a girl to do?

  4. I get so tired of everyone screaming & squirming about bugs & stuff in their gardens. Do yourself a favor…learn about them which in turn will make you less afraid of them. Not every bug or creature out there will cause you harm. Also, If you have an area that is so weeded, why not just mow it down or install weed barrier landscaping. Be more knowledgable & practical…& just say no to the chemicals!

  5. I worked a lot with public health, and all the scientific literature shows that the pesticides are more deleterious to life and health than any animal you could find in your garden.
    Pesticides are made to kill biological organisms, like us, and may cause cancer, damages to the genetic material and so on. So it is better to have another way to control the weeds. Perhaps an animal which could use this area as pasture, or mechanically remove the herbs by people, that could be a great opportunity to do outdoor physical activity, and improve the health of your family! Say no to chemicals for the health of your family and of your land!

  6. I share the pain!

    I fought the lawn and the lawn won!

    I personally would just prefer to rip out the lawn and put in wildflowers or oats/fruit and vegetable gardens (besides weeding, I detest mowing too) but my wife and subdivision neighbors won’t go for it. Personally, I know I could make it look (taste) good and would not really care what the neighbors might say but if the wife isn’t happy, nobody is happy.

    So I am stuck between refusing to use weed-control fertilizer. . . (if I have to use something – I will put down some organic fertilizer – still makes the grass grow too fast!) and being overcome by weeds and believing there is a life I should be enjoying with my 2 nine year olds and wife / providing for the family / getting a little time for self reflection. . .

    ANYONE have any suggestions other than spending 4 days a week on my knees weeding – especially this small broad leaf vine that stinks when you walk / mow it that covers the front lawn? Again, it has to remain lawn. =]:-(

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