Is Your Garden Toxic? It Can Be Both Beautiful and Clean

toxic gardeningA garden is one of the best places to relax. You can enjoy the sights and sounds of flowers, birds and insects. It’s the perfect place to meditate. Doing work in your garden is a great way to get some light exercise.

However, spending time in your garden might not be as good for you as you think. In your quest to create the perfect garden, you could be surrounding yourself with toxic chemicals. You’ll be glad to know that you don’t need them. You can have a beautiful garden that’s toxin-free.

Toxic Chemicals To Keep Out of Your Garden


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Phenoxy Herbicides

These are one of the most common types of synthetic herbicide, and include the popular herbicide 2,4-D. They work by affecting the growth hormones in weeds, causing cells to grow abnormally so nutrients can’t move through these plants. Research shows farm workers exposed to phenoxy herbicides could have an increased risk of having children with birth defects.

Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War, contained phenoxy herbicides.


These insecticides, which include Malathion and Chlorpyrifos, kill insects by preventing their nervous systems from working properly. They can affect people’s nervous systems, too. In fact, organophosphates were first developed for use as nerve gas during World War II.

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People exposed to organophosphates in the womb or in childhood have a high risk of developing memory, cognitive and emotional problems. Exposure to organophosphates in childhood increases the chance of an ADHD diagnosis.

These insecticides are known to disrupt the endocrine system. Studies show a link between organophosphate exposure and an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, leukemia and lymphoma.


Used for killing insects, slugs, snails and fungi, carbamates also affect the nervous system. They were also originally used as nerve gas in wartime. Research on rats shows a carbamate called Mancozeb might cause cancer.


Conazoles are a group of commonly used fungicides. They include Myclobutanil. Conazoles are known endocrine disruptors.

Piperonyl butoxide

Piperonyl butoxide is a chemical added to some insecticides to help them kill insects more easily. It works by blocking enzymes that break down poisons. It’s often combined with pyrethroids: synthetic insecticides designed to mimic pyrethrum, a natural insecticide that comes from chrysanthemums.

Exposure to pyrethroids and piperonyl butoxide in the womb increases the risk of developmental delays in children. Research suggests piperonyl butoxide could be a carcinogen.


Snail and slug pellets often contain metaldehyde, a chemical that’s extremely dangerous when inhaled. Metaldehyde can irritate the skin, eyes, mouth, sinuses, throat and lungs. It can be deadly to dogs and cats that consume the pellets.

Keeping Your Garden Clean

Fortunately, you don’t need toxic chemicals to enjoy a luxurious, clean garden.

Ditch chemical pesticides and create your own organic ones instead.

Vinegar makes a wonderful toxin-free herbicide. The acetic acid in vinegar will kill unwanted plants. Put some in a spray bottle – you can use apple cider vinegar, if you already have some at home – and spray on weeds.

For a stronger natural weed killer, you can try mixing vinegar with molasses, salt, lemon oil or dishwashing soap.

Be very careful where you spray. Vinegar is non-selective. It will kill any plant in your garden.

You can use garlic or onions to kill insects and fungi.

Growing native plants is a good way to reduce weed growth and prevent infestations. Plants already adapted to your climate will be strong. They’ll be more resistant to pests and have an easier time competing with weeds than non-native plants.

Be sure to mix up and rotate your plants. Pests will often infest just one type of plant. By growing different kinds of plants near each other, you’ll prevent pests from spreading through your garden. Rotating crops will prevent the same pests from reinfecting your plants every year.

Encourage beneficial insects to visit your garden. Insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantises and ichneumon wasps eat insects that can harm your plants.

Don’t forget that chemical insecticides can kill beneficial insects as well as harmful ones. They can kill bees that pollinate your garden.

Additional Sources:

Birth malformations and other adverse perinatal outcomes in four U.S. Wheat-producing states, Environmental Health Perspectives

Endocrine disrupting effects in vitro of conazole antifungals used as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, Reproductive Toxicology

Epidemiological features of snail and slug bait poisoning in dogs and cats, Australian Veterinary Journal

Pesticide Action Network

Results of Long-Term Experimental Studies on the Carcinogenicity of Ethylene-bis-Dithiocarbamate (Mancozeb) in Rats, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

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