Environmental Health
  Weed and Feed  
  Think Weed and Feed is Safe?  l  Why Not Weed and Feed?  l

What to Do Instead  l  Pesticide Studies

Think Weed and Feed is Safe?

Think again. Most weed and feed products contain pesticides, such as 2,4-D, dicamba and MCPP. Children's small size and developing brains and bodies leave them more vulnerable to the risks from pesticides.

Please... don't gamble
with your family's health
in pursuit of a weed-free lawn

Why Not Weed and Feed?

Weed and feed products are a mixture of herbicides (weed killers) and fertilizers. While multi-tasking seems easy, there are a number of problems combining these tasks.

Pesticides may harm your family’s health

Studies show links between pesticides and serious illnesses such as cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological diseases. Although some of these studies were not designed to determine if pesticides caused these diseases, the studies do report increased risks.

In addition, there are special concerns about children. Their brains, immune systems, and bodies are still developing. Damage to these vulnerable systems from pesticides or other contaminants may alter how children develop and lead to life-long effects.

Pesticides get inside our homes and our bodies

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) follows the concentrations of pesticides and other contaminants in blood and urine. The results of this body burden are found in the “Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals,” updated every few years.

Pesticides in weed and feed also end up inside homes. A study found that the 2,4-D levels inside homes were about ten times higher after it was applied to the lawn than before application. The highest levels were found inside homes with children and a dog, the lowest levels were households where shoes were always removed at the door.

Once weed and bug killers are tracked inside, they last much longer than they would outdoors, because they are not broken down by sunlight and soil organisms. Several studies have found higher levels of pesticides indoors in the carpets and dust than in the soil outdoors. Young children who spend time playing on the floor are at risk from exposure to these chemicals.

Use of weed and feed is inherently wasteful

In most yards, most of the weed killer is wasted since it is spread all over the yard including areas with no weeds. In some very weedy yards the opposite may be true – the fertilizer may be wasted because there is so little grass to fertilize!

Research done for golf courses and other turf managers shows how much chemical fertilizer and weed killer is wasted. In clay soils as much as two- thirds of the fertilizer and one-third of the weed killer applied washed away. In sandy soils one-half to two-thirds of the applied product washed away. These results were based on using the product according to label directions. Spreading fertilizer or weed killer at a higher level than the label recommends is not only illegal, it also means even more product is wasted.

Pesticides get into the environment

Unfortunately wasted product isn’t just a waste of time and money. The chemicals wash into streams, lakes, or Puget Sound or leach into ground water – our source of drinking water. The active ingredients in most weed and feed products include 2,4-D, dicamba, and MCPP. These ingredients were among the most frequently detected weed killers found in stream testing done both by the US Geologic Survey and WA Department of Ecology.

What to Do Instead

Photo of child and dogSo what to do instead? The common-sense approach is to separate weeding and feeding. In this situation, multi-tasking is not a good approach!

Leaving grass clippings on the lawn or mulch mowing can provide a fourth to a third of the nitrogen needs of the grass for the year. Organic or slow-release fertilizers waste less because the fertilizer is released more slowly; closer to the rate that plants can use the nutrition.

A balanced NPK ration of 3-1-2 is recommended fertilizer ratio for the Pacific Northwest. Fall is the most important time to fertilize. Spring fertilization is best after the grass slows down from its spring growth spurt, usually in May. Think Mother’s Day. With mulch mowing providing nutrition all through the summer, the next time to add fertilizer is not until September! Mulch mowing wastes less and saves work – less grass clippings and fewer fertilizer bags to haul.

As for weeding, first decide if weeding is necessary. View the lawn from across the street to see if the weeds are even noticeable from a distance. Would frequent mowing to keep them from setting seed be adequate? Is hand weeding, or use of a long-handled weed puller an option? Could you add low growing flowers for a meadow look? If you choose to use a weed killer, spot apply it directly to the problem weeds. Be sure to read the label carefully and follow all the safety directions.

Pesticide Studies


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This page last updated: 07/07/21