Oregon Promotes Healthy Lawns to Ease Chemical Use, Runoff

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) created the Healthy Lawns, Healthy Families Web site to provide information on how to have a great-looking lawn without chemical fertilizers and weed killers. Natural lawn care can actually produce a healthier lawn, which keeps weed populations down and reduces the need for chemicals.

Misuse and overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on the lawn can lead to lawn problems. Rain or irrigation often washes the chemicals off the lawn and into storm drains and ultimately to rivers and streams. Once in the water, the chemicals can cause problems for fish including birth defects and reproductive sterilization. In addition, this pollution builds up in the tissues of fish and contaminates an important food supply for Oregon's native populations and others who eat wild, fresh caught fish.

Pesticides and herbicides top the DEQ draft list of priority persistent pollutants that are toxic and either persist in the environment or accumulate in the tissues of humans, fish, wildlife, or plants.

The Web site includes an interactive demonstration of how lawn care habits affect the health of rivers. Visitors to the site can take a pledge to use alternatives to lawn and garden chemicals.