Weed killers are a necessary part of the gardening process, but they can also be very dangerous. Here’s what you need to know about the health impacts of weed killers, along with options for minimizing exposure if you decide to use them.
Common Weed Killers and Their Ingredients
You may have heard much about weed killers and their potential to harm the environment. But what exactly are they?
Weed killers are chemical-based products that kill unwanted plants and weeds. They’re often used in yards, gardens, and farms to control undesirable vegetation growth. The active ingredients in these products can be divided into three groups, herbicides (weed killers), insecticides (insect killers), and fungicides (fungus killers).
Herbicides are widely used worldwide to get rid of unwanted weeds. The global herbicides market in the US was worth $39.4 billion in 2021.
There are many common herbicides out there. However, we’ll focus on two main ones, Roundup (glyphosate) and Garlon 4 Ultra (2-4D). Both of these chemicals have been linked with severe health effects, including cancerous tumors in animals who ingested them over long periods. However, some reports suggest that glyphosate has lower toxicity than 90% of other herbicides.
Short-Term Health Effects of Weed Killers
The most common short-term effects of weed killers are eye irritation, skin irritation, and respiratory irritation. These can happen if you get the product in your eyes or skin. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if you accidentally swallow some weed killers.
Recently, a study was conducted to observe the short-term health effects of weed killers. A group of women farm workers that used weed killers were a part of the study. The results revealed ocular-nasal symptoms, doctor-diagnosed asthma, and current asthma to be 24%, 11%, and 6%, respectively, in the sample.
In rare cases where someone is exposed to large amounts of this type of chemical over an extended period, for example, through their job, there could be other health problems like headaches or fatigue as well as damage to their liver or kidneys from years of exposure.
Long-Term Health Effects of Weed Killers
Long-term health effects can be serious and life-threatening. The long-term effects of weed killers may not appear until years after exposure, so it’s important to be aware of the risks and take steps to reduce your risk.
The long-term health effects of weed killers are often irreversible, making it even more important to avoid contact with these chemicals whenever possible.
Increased Risk of Cancer
While there is no conclusive evidence that weed killers cause cancer, the EPA has found that people who work with them are at higher risk of certain types of cancer. There’s a strong link found connecting weed killers like Roundup with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This has led to farmers affected by Roundup filing lawsuits against the manufacturer, Monsanto.
The farmers claim that Monsanto failed to warn them about the potential health dangers of using Roundup. Many farmers are filing the Roundup lawsuit, and you can, too, if you have faced any health problems after using the weed killer.
As stated by TorHoerman Law, Monsanto, and Bayer, the manufacturers of Roundup are being offensive. They are trying to dismiss all the cases against them through internal studies that show Roundup is ten times less toxic than caffeine. However, the US state and Federal courts have stopped many of their actions.
The reproductive system is a delicate process that can be affected by chemicals in weed killers. The following are possible health effects of weed killers:
- Male infertility. This means a man’s sperm count is low, and/or he cannot get his partner pregnant.
- Female infertility. This means a woman cannot get pregnant even though she and her partner have been trying for at least one year or longer or if they have never been able to become pregnant together. It also includes women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which causes irregular periods and makes it hard for them to conceive naturally, even though they may ovulate regularly every month.
- Miscarriage during early pregnancy when used around the time of conception or during early pregnancy. This risk increases with higher exposure levels. A new study published on the NCBI website has suggested that exposure to glyphosate and its derivatives, like aminomethylphosphonic acid, around the 28th week of pregnancy leads to a 30–70% increase in the risk of preterm birth.
You might have heard weed killers cause neurological problems, but what are these health effects?
Neurological problems are a long-term effect of weed killers. They can be caused by the chemicals in the product and can include:
- Memory loss
- Nausea and vomiting
Kidney and Liver Damage
Kidney and liver damage are long-term health effects of weed killers. The kidneys and liver are essential organs that help your body remove harmful substances from the blood, so when these organs are damaged, it can cause serious problems with how your body functions.
Several things can cause kidney and liver damage, but weed killers are among the most common causes. Other potential causes include:
- Alcoholism or alcohol abuse
- Certain medications like antibiotics, antifungals, or antihistamines
Environmental Impacts of Weed Killers
The environmental impacts of weed killers are another area of concern. Weed killers are toxic to aquatic life, which includes fish and other marine organisms. They can also harm birds, bees, and other pollinators if exposed to them in high enough concentrations. Pets and livestock risk death if they ingest even small amounts of these chemicals.
Not only can they be poisonous to animals that come into contact with them directly, but some studies have found that herbicides absorbed through plants’ roots may end up being absorbed by the animals eating those plants, too, meaning that plants don’t need direct contact with herbicides themselves for them to pose a threat.
Tips for Minimizing Exposure to Weed Killers
Since weed killers can be hazardous to your health and the environment, it is only natural that you would want to minimize exposure to them.
- Avoid using weed killers. If you can, it’s best to avoid using any kind of weed killer at all. Weed killers can be dangerous for your health and the environment, so it’s best to try other methods of controlling weeds.
- Use natural methods to control weeds instead of chemical ones, if possible.
- If you have a lawn or garden area where weeds grow between the grass/plants, you can pull them out by hand rather than spraying a harmful chemical. This way, you’ll need more time and effort, but it’s better than risking exposure.
- Another option is mulch. Applying mulch around plants prevents sunlight from reaching the soil underneath, which also prevents growth from occurring there.
The bottom line is that we need to be careful with weed killers. They can be very dangerous to our health, especially when used improperly or in large amounts. If you’re concerned about the impact of this on your family’s health, consider finding alternative ways of controlling weeds, like mulching or hand-picking them out by hand.