By Anita Conron
I never thought I would become one, but I have. Yes, I am a helicopter mom.
It happens every spring. Trucks appear around town with signs painted on the side promising beautiful, lush, green lawns. A young man climbs from the cab of his vehicle and begins the process of unwinding a hose, releasing a lever and spraying a lawn.
I watch. I want to yell, “Put on a pair of gloves. Your mother would want that. Where are your high boots? Wouldn’t you be safer from the spray if you wore a face mask? Do you know exactly what you are applying to that lawn?”
But I remain quiet and observe from afar. He completes his task and places yellow warning signs at intervals around the yard.
The young man departs and I leave my parental post.
Chemicals such as glyphosate, carbaryl, malathion and 2,4-D are used to keep our lawns devoid of weeds, bugs and grubs. The compounds in these products are linked to a variety of diseases: Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, to name only a few (New York Times: The Toxic Brew in Our Yards, May 10, 2014).
Rain takes what is sprayed on your lawn and releases it into the soil, streams and eventually Lake Erie, the main source of our drinking water. Water treatment does not remove these chemicals. So-called “acceptable” amounts of chemicals have a cumulative effect in our bodies. Residue from our sprayed lawns and fields remains on shoes, children’s bare feet in the summertime and our pets’ paws, and is deposited on carpets and floors.
I am familiar with one of these diseases, Parkinson’s. My husband, Bill, suffered from the relentless progression of this debilitating condition for over 17 years. He died at age 67 from complications of the disease.
I recall Bill saying, “I had the best job for two summers during college. I sprayed trees for the City of Newport [R.I.]. I got up at 4 a.m., sat atop a huge truck and sprayed trees until 11. That left the rest of the day to go to the beach.”
Two years after my husband celebrated his 50th birthday he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We traveled to the Cleveland Clinic, Dent Neurologic Institute and Strong Memorial Hospital for opinions. The same question was asked at all three medical institutions: Have you ever been exposed to chemicals or pesticides? The answer was yes. A nine-year study (2006) confirmed that patients exposed to pesticides had a 70 percent higher incidence of Parkinson’s (Scientific American: Parkinson’s Disease and Pesticides: What’s the Connection? April 8, 2014).
It is possible to have a green lawn without applying chemicals. Adding clover supplies nutrition to your lawn. Cut it less to develop a deep root system. Dig up a section of your grass and enjoy the pleasure of growing vegetables. Learn to love the colorful, delicate flowers that pop up in the spring.
Maybe if we do this, the young man on the pesticide truck will no longer be spraying chemicals on our lawns and fields, but happily enjoying new and safer employment.
Anita Conron, of East Aurora, is a board member of Aurorans for Climate and Environmental Sense.