Report Says Lawn Care Products Safe When Used Appropriately

Recent study shows that benefit outweighs risk for four commonly used lawn care products: bifenthrin; azoxystrobin; 2,4-D and MCPA.

Pesticide Use

A noted scientist and Harvard research manager recently conducted a review of four commonly used lawn care products. Her findings led to the conclusion that these products, when used appropriately, pose little danger for adverse health effects.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to let my children and dogs play on a lawn where lawn care products have been used, as long as the products were applied according to their respective labels,” said Katherine von Stackelberg, Sc.D (doctor of science), principal of E Risk Sciences and a research manager at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.

As part of a series of studies commissioned by the Environmental Health Research Foundation (EHRF), von Stackelberg selected four of the most commonly used lawn care products. She reviewed them to evaluate the strength of the association between exposure and potential health effects. She reviewed the toxicological, epidemiological and exposure data for bifenthrin; azoxystrobin; 2,4-D and MCPA (a member of the same chemical family as 2,4-D).


A synthetic pyrethroid and known neurotoxicant to insects, bifenthrin has biochemical origins in the natural insecticide pyrethrum, an extract of Chrysanthemums, and is a commonly used insecticide on turf, in homes, and for agricultural applications. 

In this study, von Stackelberg found no evidence for adverse health effects when used as directed. Similarly, the U.S. EPA released a cumulative risk assessment in 2011 for synthetic pyrethroids as a class, and found that typical uses were not associated with potential risks. Given the clear benefits of bifenthrin use (a highly effective termiticide), a qualitative benefit-risk assessment suggests that benefits of the product when used as directed lead to significant benefits. Given the obvious benefits, it is likely that directed uses of bifenthrin have greater benefit than risk.


Azoxystrobin is one of a new class of fungicidal compounds derived from naturally occurring strobilurins used in agriculture and lawn care. Azoxystrobin is a broad-spectrum, systemic fungicide that acts by inhibiting electron transport. It has the ability to provide protection against fungal diseases within a variety of crops. In the study, von Stackelberg found “that the evidence indicates that the potential for adverse health effects in humans resulting from exposure to azoxystrobin is low to non-existent.” The research also looked at the effect of azoxystrobin on dogs and found no adverse health effects.

MCPA and 2,4-D

A third study was recently completed by von Stackelberg reviewing the potential health effects of MCPA and 2,4-D, which are pesticides/herbicides used to control and eliminate broadleaf weeds. In presentations last fall at two scientific conferences, von Stackelberg indicated that these products are also ones which do not raise undue levels of concern. The full results of this study have been submitted for publication to a peer-reviewed scientific publication. EHRF will release the full study when it has been accepted for publication. 

“Significant research has been done on these products,” von Stackelberg explained, “and the weight of evidence indicates very little potential for adverse health effects associated with environmental exposures.”

“Green space, particularly in urban areas, offers significant health benefits, which are described in the Environmental Health Research’s review of the literature,” von Stackelberg continues. “Maximizing these benefits may require the use of products to ensure a healthy, thriving green space, and the goal is to use products with the greatest efficacy and the least potential for risk.”

To see the full reports on bifenthrin and azoxystrobin, go to