The Maryland Chapter began our Pesticide-Free Yards project because of the threat that lawn and garden pesticides pose to our health and our environment. Maryland bees are especially in crisis. Whether you found this page through the web link posted on a “Pesticide-Free” or "Bee Safe" sign in your community or otherwise, welcome!
You, I, and our neighbors can help improve our environment through wise stewardship of land we manage: our lawns and gardens. Through this campaign, we will share about the harms of pesticides, share resources on healthy pesticide-free ways to address pests and weeds, and provide information on creating native habitats in your yard to help Maryland's bees and wildlife.
Check out this map of pesticide-free yard supporters!
Note: Markers are shown based on zip code, not exact addresses
What are pesticides?
Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, pesticides include herbicides (weed killers), fungicides, and others. Pesticides are, by their very nature, poisons. They can be present as granular or liquid form in: lawn treatments, garden insect killer, mosquito sprays, "weed and feed" products, and others. Even something as seemingly harmless as "rose and flower care” can contain pesticides that harm beneficial bees and pollinators. It is important to read the product label and understand if it contains pesticide ingredients. However, as a consumer, additional research may be necessary as some potential health risks are not disclosed on the pesticide product label.
Protect our Health
With many safer ways to maintain lawn and landscaping, it is not necessary to take risks to our health just to have a good-looking yard. Lawn and garden pesticides don't stay put, they can drift to contaminate the air we breathe and pollute our communities, impacting all of our health.
People exposed to lawn and garden pesticides can develop acute and long term health effects. Many of these pesticides have been linked to cancers, birth defects, adverse reproductive and neurological effects, asthma and respiratory effects, and endocrine (hormone system) disruption1. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children are especially susceptible to the toxic effects of pesticides, including links to pediatric cancer, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems2.
Protect our Pets
The smaller body and habits of companion animals make them more susceptible and more likely to be exposed to toxic pesticides. These chemicals can pose danger for cats, dogs, birds, horses, rabbits, and other pets. For dogs exposed to lawn pesticides, studies show that lawn chemicals are detected in their urine3, and there is an increased risk of developing canine malignant lymphoma4 and bladder cancer5.
Maryland's Bees, Pollinators, and Wildlife
Bees and pollinators play an important role in sustaining us by pollinating our food and are essential to our ecosystem. Yet, Maryland beekeepers are currently losing half of their bees each year; this loss of bees is unprecedented and unsustainable. Numbers of the rusty patched bumble bee (a native bee) has dropped almost 90% in recent years. This once common bumble bee that populated eastern North America, including Maryland, is now declared federally endangered6.
Pesticide residue ends up in soil and water bodies via runoff leading to contamination of wildlife food sources and habitats. Our yards are important habitats for our beneficial bees and pollinators. However, the use of pesticides can expose bees and beneficial insects to a “toxic soup” of chemicals that can kill or harm them. Pesticides can also destroy forage plants that bees and pollinators need to survive (like clovers and wildflowers).
A group of international scientists found that a common class of pesticides (neonicotinoids, aka neonics) pose a serious threat to bees, birds, fish, crabs, water insects, earthworms, and other non-targeted species7.
Protect our Waterways and Drinking Water Sources
Pesticides can runoff from our yards to pollute our local streams, lakes and our great national treasure - the Chesapeake Bay. Eliminating pesticide use from lawns and yards especially helps to keep these harmful chemicals out of our drinking water sources. Water treatment plants do not typically remove chemical contaminants, like pesticides, from our drinking tap water.
Wise Choices & Pesticide-Free Landscaping Methods
Informed consumers and residents understand that application of lawn and garden pesticides can pose harm. We have the power to make wise choices that favor our health and the health of our environment. Click to learn about non-toxic methods and alternatives that make your yard safer for people, pets and wildlife.
Help spread the word for greater impact! You are in a unique position to influence your friends, neighbors, homeowners' association, and your networks to move towards wiser choices too - leading to a safer neighborhood for all. Print out a flyer to share about the issue. We are not distributing pesticide-free yard signs at this time. Yards signs can be purchased through third parties such as Beyond Pesticides.
1. Beyond Pesticides Factsheet. 2015. Health Effects of 30 Commonly Used Lawn Pesticides.
2. Roberts, JR. 2012 Dec. American Academy of Pediatrics - Pesticide Exposure in Children. Pediatrics. Issn numbers: Print, 0031-4005; Online 1098-4275.
3. Knapp DW, et al. July 2013, Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application. Science of the Total Environment, pp 465-457
4. Biki B., et al. 2012 Jan. Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma, a model for human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Environmental Research, Volume 112, pp 171-176.
5. Glickman LT, et al. 2004 Apr. Herbicide exposure and the risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 1290-1297.
7. Chagnon, M. et al. 2015. The Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems. Environ Sci Pollut Res, 22: 119. doi:10.1007/s11356-014-3277-x.