The weed-killer commonly known as Roundup has been in extensive use around the world since the early 1970s.
The manufacturer (Monsanto) claims the product is safe when used correctly. The fact is the science is as old as their product.
With many tons of product sprayed on the planet every year, the toxins it contains are now in the air, water and soil. These chemicals find their way into the food we eat every day.
In this article, we will explore the dangers posed by both the active and inert ingredients found in Roundup. We will also share some advice on keeping these toxins out of your life. Read on to learn more. [source]
What’s So Bad About Roundup?
Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide (plant killer) and the active ingredient in Roundup.
Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health indicate that the chemical is an endocrine disruptor. Glyphosate could have negative and long-lasting ill effects on the reproductive health and general health of humans and other mammals. [source]
The institute warns that “proper application” makes no difference to the inherent danger of the chemical. Even very low doses can have massive deleterious effects.
It is also important to note that Roundup is not the only product that contains glyphosate. In fact, there are more than 750 different products available in the United States containing this chemical.
Roundup Declared Cancer Causing
Ongoing research conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency indicates that in addition to endocrine disruption, extended exposure to glyphosate may also induce inflammation and promote breast cancer. [source]
Swedish studies conducted with rats show some indication that massive exposure to the chemical could contribute to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and may contribute to fetal defects and delayed fetal development.
Since glyphosate is so ubiquitous, it is difficult to avoid exposure even if you do not actively use products which contain the chemical. Nonetheless, if you choose to spray herbicides such as Roundup in your yard, you are bound to increase your chances of potentially dangerous exposure.
The active ingredient can be absorbed through the eyes, nasal passages and (to a lesser extent) the skin. If you neglect washing your hands after applying the chemical, you could easily ingest it when you eat or smoke.
If you are overexposed to this chemical, you may experience:
- Irritated Throat & Nasal Passages
- Mouth Sores (burns)
- Eye Irritation
- Skin Rash
These symptoms are the result of relatively small, accidental exposure. People who have purposely ingested pesticides containing these chemicals as a means of suicide have succeeded.
NOTE: Take special care to keep pets and children away from areas treated with herbicides containing glyphosate. This article shares pet-friendly weed killer ideas. If they come in contact with plants that are still wet with pesticide, they could suffer severe symptoms or even death.
The Effects Are Cumulative
According to the EPA, approximately one-hundred-million pounds of Roundup are used in the US every year, and that is just one of the 750 glyphosate containing chemicals currently in use in one nation.
In Argentina, environmental groups and activists have petitioned the government to ban the use of glyphosate in areas where the chemical is regularly sprayed on crops due to:
- Frequent human birth-defects
- High incidence of cancer in humans
- Genetic disfigurement in wildlife (e.g., amphibians)
Inert Ingredients Are Not Harmless
Proprietary (unidentified) ingredients listed as “inert” are also potentially dangerous according to Caroline Cox, the research director at Oakland, California’s Center for Environmental Health. An ingredient that does not harm the intended target of a product can be listed as “inert”, but that does not necessarily mean that it is harmless.
In addition to the potential danger inherent in glyphosate, the surfactants or wetting agents added to it to boost its effectiveness amplify its adverse effects. One of the most dangerous is polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA). [source]
The purpose of POEA in a formulation is to help the chemicals in the formula penetrate the surface of plants and interact with the plant’s cells to ultimately kill them.
This “inert” ingredient is included in many different types of herbicides. It also carries the potential to “help” these chemicals penetrate human cells deeply and cause more damage. For this reason, this ingredient is suspected as being linked to a vast array of chronic health conditions.
A study conducted by Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen in France found that this ingredient could cause severe damage to umbilical cord, placental and embryonic cells in humans. [source]
The research team found that the residual levels of this ingredient commonly found on crops such as corn and soybeans or in lawn and garden settings were ample to cause reproductive problems.
They speculate that this “inert” ingredient may interfere with pregnancy and fetal development by interfering with the production of hormones. This may also lead to low birth weight and even miscarriage.
Are There Any Safe Alternatives For Natural Weed Control?
There are many ways to prevent and combat weed growth using safe, inexpensive homemade alternatives. Here are some sensible, simple, easy alternatives for natural prevention and eradication of weeds.
9 Natural Ways To Cope With Weeds
#1 – Mow higher! When you mow your yard close to the ground, you are just encouraging weed growth. If you have a lush, healthy, slightly long lawn, you are far less likely to have weeds. A short lawn wastes water and encourages weeds because they like sunny, dry soil.
#2 – Reduce your lawn. Plant a good ground cover instead of lawn. A healthy, robust, attractive ground cover will also prevent weed growth by smothering them out.
#3 – Engage natural helpers! If you have a large, weedy area to tackle consider keeping or borrowing some goats or sheep to nibble down the weeds. In a smaller yard, you may want to keep a large rabbit or two (e.g., New Zealand Giants) as friendly, weed-eating yard pets. Be sure to provide secure fencing and comfortable housing.
#4 – Edge lawns and walkways. You can prevent having weeds grow up along the edges of your lawns and walkways by installing edging made of landscape timbers, pressure treated decking wood or commercially made plastic edging. If you go with plastic, look for a high quality, long-lasting recycled product.
#5 – Smother them! Be sure to mulch heavily around your plants, shrubs, and trees to prevent weed growth. Weeds are much more likely to grow on the bare ground, so keeping a couple of inches of mulch on your garden bed will discourage their growth and help you make better use of precious water.
#6 – Avoid digging. When you till an area in preparation for planting, you are setting up a situation that encourages weeds. Additionally, if there are weed seeds or roots in the soil, disturbing the soil just spreads and stimulates them.
Instead of tilling, late in the autumn, try mowing the area very short and then covering it with a thick pad of newspaper and/or cardboard. Mulch very heavily over the pad. Weeds underneath will die, and the paper and cardboard will compost to feed the soil, and you‘ll have a nice garden patch ready to plant in the spring.
#7 – Block them! Layout landscape fabric to prevent weed growth. This is an especially good solution between rows in your garden or in areas where you want to make a path. Clear the ground then roll out the fabric and cover it with mulch.
#8 – Crowd them out! Plant hardy native or naturalized plants densely. If your garden plants are thick and robust, they will out-compete weeds and prevent them from growing.
#9 – Learn to appreciate native plants. Some of the plants we call weeds are very useful and quite attractive. Many, such as plantain, chicory, dandelions and various types of wild mint can be eaten or made into teas.
Learn about the native and naturalized plants in your area and identify the ones that you might like to have in your yard. When you see them, cultivate them and treat them as invited guests.
5 Natural Ways To Kill Weeds
#1 – Pull them up! Early in the spring when the weeds are small, tour your yard and pull them up. Keep a close eye on your garden throughout the growing season and pull weeds as soon as they rear their heads. They are much easier to pull when they are young and soft and haven’t had a chance to put down deep roots.
#2 – Boil them! If you have a noxious weed infestation in a small area, try pouring salted, boiling water over it. This is a very good solution for weeds growing in sidewalk cracks. Just be careful not to scald yourself or accidentally burn plants you want to keep! [source]
#3 – Use salt sparingly. Salt alone can be a good way to kill off weeds, but you should use it very sparingly. It can damage paving, and it also damages the soil.
Avoid using it in areas where you hope to grow anything. Use it as a last resort on very stubborn weeds, and once they are dead, dilute the salt with water and amend the soil to help it heal. Remember also to mulch to prevent re-growth of weeds.
#4 – Make homemade weedkiller herbicides. You can use pure vinegar to kill weeds, or you can make up one of a variety of specialized vinegar weed-killing concoctions.
Here are a couple of very easy and affordable homemade weed killer recipes.
- Spray bottle or garden sprayer
- Plain white vinegar with an acidity level of at least 5%
- Plain, cheap table salt (iodized or not)
- Dish detergent (any brand)
You can make a couple of different types of weed killer with these simple ingredients.
For weed killer for use in garden areas, just use vinegar and liquid dish detergent. To a gallon of white vinegar, add about a teaspoonful of dish soap.
Related Reading: Guide To Backpack Sprayer Selection & Use
The dishwashing liquid acts as a surfactant to spread the vinegar more evenly and boost its effectiveness, but (unlike chemical surfactants) it doesn’t make the vinegar dangerous to you!
Wait a couple of days and then clear the ground and prepare it for planting. This concoction will not damage the soil. [source]
To kill weeds in walkways and areas where you don’t want to plant again, add two cups of salt to this mixture. You may want to mix this up well in advance of using it because it takes some time for the salt to dissolve.
Remember that your mixing and storage container will need to be 1.5 or 2 gallons so you’ll have enough room for the salt and perhaps for vigorous stirring or shaking.
If you use this salt-laced mixture regularly around pathways and other areas where you do not want to grow anything, its effects will eventually be permanent because the salt will leach all nutrients from the soil and destroy it for growth purposes.
#5 – Enlist the power of essential oils!
Here’s another vinegar variation using orange oil.
Home Made Roundup Alternative
- Half a gallon of water
- Half a gallon of vinegar
- 1 ounce of orange oil
- 1 squirt of dish soap
Be advised that the essential oil in this mixture can destroy rubber seals in mechanical sprayers, so it’s best to apply this using a spray bottle or paint brush.
Be careful when using vinegar because it will kill desirable plants as well as your weeds. If you spray it, be sure to do so carefully on a still day to avoid overspray.
Better yet, apply it with a paintbrush directly to the plants you hope to kill. It’s best to apply your potion in the morning on a very sunny day. The sun will enhance the power of the vinegar.
How Does Vinegar Weed Killer Work?
This all-natural product is an acetic acid that kills plants by drawing the moisture from the leaves.
When you apply straight vinegar to a plant on a sunny day, you will see that it withers, turns brown and dies within a matter of hours.
This is why you must be very careful not to get it on the plants you want to keep. It is a non-selective weed killer.
Note that 5% acidity level is the common level for table vinegar, and this should be sufficient for your purposes if you want to create a non-toxic weed killer. [source]
Products with higher levels of acidity may be available at specialty stores, garden stores, and health food stores. Be careful dealing with these the acid can burn you.
Vinegar that is up to 30% acid is potentially dangerous. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and goggles and handle with great care. Don’t breathe the vapors!
Your results with vinegar-based weed killers may vary depending on the type of weed you are trying to kill.
Tender, broad-leafed weeds such as dandelions will die off more quickly and completely than narrow-leafed, tough weeds such as crabgrass. You may need to make several applications for this type of growth.
Plants with hairy leaves may have more protection from the effects of vinegar, and you may need to add a little more dish soap to your mix to help it soak in and make good contact with the leaf surface.
Plants with a deep, sturdy tap root may appear to die off, but they will probably grow back eventually.
You might feel tempted to pour vinegar into the soil in this case, but this is not a good idea as in high concentrations, it could negatively impact the pH levels of the soil and might harm microorganisms in the soil. In this case, you’ll need to resort to weed-pulling!
Is It Really Possible To Avoid Exposure To Chemical Herbicides?
Even though use of chemical herbicides may seem like an overwhelming and insurmountable problem, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family and avoid contributing to the problem.
Naturally, if you use glyphosate containing chemicals in your yard on a regular, ongoing basis the chemicals will build up, soak into the soil and make their way into the water table.
This will have a negative effect on wildlife in your yard and potentially, anywhere water may fall or run all around the world.
On the other hand, if you make the positive, pro-active choice of simply saying “No!” to these dangerous chemicals you can reduce their impact on yourself, your family, your neighborhood and ultimately – the earth.
When you choose to make a positive difference, you will surely influence others around you.