The Most Toxic Stuff At The Garden Center

Sometimes, the items that help you get your hands in the dirt could be harmful to your health and the environment.

February 24, 2016
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The garden center is where you go to buy all the supplies you need to grow fresh, nutritious food. So it’s pretty surprising how many of the items on the shelves can be harmful to your family’s health and the environment, and it’s hard to know what to stay away from—especially when labels are unclear. Click through to see our list of things you should never buy at the garden store.

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Cheap Garden Boots

A 2014 report from the consumer-testing group Healthy Stuff found that some waterproof garden boots tested high for lead and chlorine, an indication that toxic PVC plastic, which is loaded with endocrine disrupting phthalates, is present. Instead, go for sustainably manufactured Recycled Rubber Boots for a more eco-friendly option.

garden hose
PVC Garden Hoses

Healthy Stuff also found that some types of garden hoses, namely those made with PVC plastic, leach phthalates and BPA into the water, especially when the hose sits out in the hot sun for a few days. It’s best to let the water run for a couple minutes before turning the spray on your veggies to get most of the contaminated water out. If you’re buying a new hose, look for one that says that it’s drinking water safe on the package. 

Related: Stop! Before You Toss That Cracked Garden Hose, Fix It!

spraying pesticides

Okay, you probably already know Roundup is bad for the environment, but some people don’t realize just how toxic the popular weed killer is to the health of the planet and people. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient, as “probably carcinogen.” It’s also decimating monarch butterfly populations. Try these Natural Weed Control Methods instead of reaching for the spray.

vinyl fencing
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Vinyl Fencing

Vinyl is made from vinyl chloride, a type of toxic plastic that has harmful effects on the environment. It’s classified as a known carcinogen by the EPA, but its widespread use means it commonly shows up in drinking water, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Instead, opt for a fence made from reclaimed lumber or Plant A Biodiverse Hedgerow.

gardening plastic
Black Plastic

Black plastic sheeting is technically an acceptable ground cover under organic growing guidelines. But besides being nonrecyclable and petroleum-based, black plastic significantly increases runoff and soil erosion, according to a study by The Rodale Institute. It also traps excess heat, which can be damaging to beneficial microorganisms in the soil. And there’s concern that plastic sheeting may release BPA and other toxins into the soil. Basic Cover Crops, as an alternative, will keep weeds down and maintain soil quality.

rubber mulch
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Rubber Mulch

Popular for coating the ground beneath swing sets, rubber mulch has made its way into flowerbeds—you can buy it in various shades of brown to mimic woodchips. But if you’re wondering What Type Of Mulch Is Right For Your Garden, you can cross rubber off the list. Yes, it’s made from recycled materials that will break down eventually. But it has also tested positive for phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and a host of other hazardous chemical compounds.

synthetic fertilizer
Conventional Synthetic Fertilizers

Many synthetic fertilizers, which are petroleum-based, contain high levels of heavy metals and manmade nitrogen, which causes algae blooms and other hazards to marine life when it’s washed into rivers and streams. Not sure what to buy to feed your plants? Check out Everything You Need To Know About Organic Fertilizer.