(Beyond Pesticides, May 11, 2009) The Maine advocacy group, Citizens for a Green Camden, has been presented with a 2009 Environmental Merit Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in recognition of their significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving. This group of concerned citizens works “to make their community a better and healthier place to live [by] focusing specifically on the elimination of poisons being used on lawns in their community,” according to the EPA press statement. Beyond Pesticides applauds EPA and urges more awards like this to end harmful and unnecessary pesticide use.
Citizens for a Green Camden’s first milestone victory provided information which led to the passage of its policy to eliminate the use of pesticides in parks and on playing fields, which led to a similar policy in neighboring Rockport. They also compare notes with ofher citizen groups.
The organization continues to work to educate homeowners about the dangers of using poisons on their lawns, running programs and providing written educational materials for residents at the town office. It was able to convince the town Bed and Breakfasts to join their efforts by not using pesticides on their properties, advertising those partners at the local Chamber of Commerce for visitors to see. “The organization continues its education outreach through various other community-based methods to eventually eliminate poisons being used on lawns in the entire Camden community,” continues the EPA press release.
Camden’s pesticide policy states, “All pesticides are toxic to some degree and the widespread use of pesticides is both a major environmental problem and a public health issue. Federal regulation of pesticides is no guarantee of safety. Camden recognizes that the use of pesticides may have profound effects upon indigenous plants, surface water and ground water, as well as unintended effects upon people, birds and other animals in the vicinity of treated areas. Camden recognizes that all citizens, particularly children, have a right to protection from exposure to hazardous chemicals and pesticides.”
Given out by EPA since 1970, the merit awards honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the region’s environment. This year’s competition drew approximately 49 nominations from across New England. Besides Citizens for a Green Camden, three other awards were given in Maine. The winners were among 31 from across New England. Awards were given in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization.
Eliminating toxic pesticides is important in lawn and landscape management, considering that of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides: 14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, and 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants. The most popular and widely used lawn chemical 2,4-D, which kills broad leaf weeds like dandelions, is an endocrine disruptor with predicted human health risks ranging from changes in estrogen and testosterone levels, thyroid problems, prostate cancer and reproductive abnormalities. 2,4-D has also been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other lawn chemicals like glyphosate (RoundUp) have also been linked to serious adverse chronic effects in humans. Imidacloprid, another pesticide growing in popularity, has been implicated in bee toxicity and the recent Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) phenomena.
The easiest and safest solution is to avoid chemical use and exposure by using alternative, non-toxic management methods for species that can cause economic and health problems, being more tolerant of species that are solely a nuisance or aesthetically displeasing, and using organic products.
The passage of pesticide-free and pesticide reduction policies are very promising. Other examples include: New York State Parks; Chicago City Parks; 29 communities and townships in New Jersey; at least 17 cities in the Northwest covering more than 50 parks; and, numerous communities throughout Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as new policies and programs are continually being implemented by local and state government entities as well as schools and homeowner associations.
TAKE ACTION: Community activism is the best way to get your town to adopt such a policy. For assistance in proposing a policy to your city council (or its equivalent), contact Beyond Pesticides at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-543-5450. For more information on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes program page. Let your neighbors know your lawn and garden are organic by displaying a Pesticide Free Zone sign.