Can you get Cancer from Mulch?

Many of us are once again outside, admiring Spring, it's glorious weather and gardening. Children will be out playing with their pets and many adults will enjoy watching the birds and small mammals. What many don't realize is the harm they may be doing by simply mulching their gardens.

Remember 'Agent Orange', a herbicide widely used in Vietnam? To my knowledge, trifluralin is one of the ingredients used in it in a garden mulch made by Preen. Now it's ready for you to buy at your local garden center. Just picture your kids, pets and wildlife romping around in this toxic soup, not to mention it running off into our precious water supply. They will tell you that it's safe, but don't believe it for a minute. The name of this mulch is "Preen Mulch Plus."   Preen is manufactured by Lebanon Seaboard Corporation in Lebanon Pa.   One cannot be too careful when buying garden mulch these days.  There is no end to industries' inventiveness.

The picture shows a bag of "Preen Much Plus".

The fact sheet on Trifluralin is as follows.

Trifluralin is classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as Group C, possible human carcinogen(21). In a two-year study of rats fed 325 mg/kg per day, malignant tumors developed in the kidneys, bladder and thyroid(22). Because there is a possible increase in the risk of cancer to humans, the EPA's Lifetime Health Advisory level for trifluralin in drinking water of 5 micrograms per litre includes an additional safety margin(23).

A concern about the carcinogenicity risk of occupational exposure to trifluralin is also acknowledged by the US EPA, with the stipulation that workers, particularly mixers, loaders, and applicators, should use personal protective equipment including coveralls, chemical-resistant gloves, shoes and socks. Post-application, workers should observe a 12 hour Restricted Entry Interval(24), a condition which is unlikely to be communicated or observed in developing countries.

Endocrine-disrupting effects
Trifluralin is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, according to both the UK Environment Agency and the World Wide Fund for Nature(25). These chemicals have adverse, 'gender-bender' effects by interfering with the body's hormones, or chemical messengers, and are active at even miniscule levels (see PAN UK briefing No.2 Mixed messages: pesticides that confuse hormones).

Reproductive effects
Loss of appetite and weight loss followed by miscarriages were observed when pregnant rats were fed 224 or 500 mg/kg per day. Foetal weight decreased and there was an increase in the number of foetal runts at 500 mg/kg per day dosage(26).

Fate in the environment
The persistence of trifluralin in agricultural soils following incorporation is highly variable, depending on several factors including depth of incorporation, soil moisture and temperature. Its persistence is categorised as 'moderate' to 'persistent'(27). Several field dissipation studies in northern latitudes in Canada indicated half-lives ranging from 126 to 190 days(28)

Here's a .gov link from the FDA about trifluralin. I wonder when they'll retract it and tell us it's harmless. I suppose when enough of the chemical lobbyists get around to our legislators.

Trifluralin | Technology Transfer Network Air Toxics Web site | US EPA
EPA has classified trifluralin as a Group C, possible human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). .... (4); Trifluralin occurs as a yellow-orange crystalline solid or crystals that are slightly soluble in water. ...

Information facts and  Photo thanks to Bill Duesing, President of NOFA

On a side note, I'll take the weeds any day!


  1. My mulch is farm hay and straw, autumn leaves, summer grass clippings. And I feel good about that (even if my neighbors don't!).

  2. We're doing the same this year. We're also letting part of our yard go fallow. I don't know how that will go over with the neighbours, but the bees will like it. Plus, paying for the gas & time to maintain a non-productive lawn makes no sense. Paying for fertilizers and pesticides really don't make sense!

  3. My neighbor has fabulous flowers and loves Preen. She developed thyroid cancer this year. I've sent her a link to your post. I have recommended WOW by Gardens Alive that uses corn gluten as a pre-emergent weed control. It's amazing and the research is excellent. Check it out.

  4. Just listened to a CD by a neurochemist and after looking at the research she believes the majority of cancers come from environmental toxcins. My gardens are organic. Thanks for the post.


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