(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2012) After reading several cases of pesticide poisonings throughout the state of Utah, State Senator Gene Davis (D-Utah), has announced plans to sponsor legislation that requires notification when nearby homes are being treated with toxic pesticides. Pre-notification is a critical step in the right direction to allow people to avoid unwanted chemical exposures. Utah’s current pesticide notification system is voluntary. While pesticide applicators are required to alert their customers of the dangers associated with certain pesticides they apply, residents are not required currently to notify their neighbors when they apply pesticides around their home.
One recent case to come to light is the Pammi family’s loss of their golden retriever “Rusty” (see image) that they attribute to the toxic herbicides he inhaled after they were applied on their neighbor’s lawn this August. Rusty ingested the product TruPower3, a potent mixture of 2,4-D, mecoprop-p (MCPP-p), and dicamba. Beyond Pesticides was in contact with Mrs. Pammi after the incident, and although there is no way to confirm that Rusty’s death was the result of pesticide exposure, Ms. Pammi provided Beyond Pesticides with this statement from Rusty’s vet:
“The herbicide Trupower, which contains a mixture of 2,4-D, mecoprop-p and dicamba and a class of phenoxy chemicals, has the potential to cause mild to severe signs in dogs depending [on] amount and concentration of the compound ingested. Some of the first signs include Dyspnea, increased salivation, hypermotility of the GI Tract, vomiting, miosis and urinary incontinence. The signs can progress to a nicotinic phase of toxicity if high amounts have been ingested including muscular twitching, ataxia and paralysis including respiratory arrest. Skin contact does not appear to cause these signs only ingestion of the compound.”
This incident prompted Mrs. Pammi to write a heartfelt letter to the Standard-Examiner, questioning the current state of pesticide regulations.
“If alerted, we would have kept our dog inside. This could have been our young daughter. Our neighbor has the right to use a lawn care service. Do we have the right not to have chemicals drift into our yard and cause injury or death? Who monitors and enforces proper use of such deadly chemicals?”
With the support of Sen. Davis, Utahans may see a change. A new proposal could mean more stringent requirements. In order to adequately protect against pesticide drift, Beyond Pesticides recommends that there should be an established buffer zone surrounding residential buildings; one that is at least 300 ft. Citizens should also have the right to be notified 48 hours before application along with the posting of clearly visible signs that must remain posted 72 hours after application. Some may advocate for a requirement that a sign be posed only after the pesticide has been sprayed. However, because exposure can occur within minutes after applying a chemical, this sort of restriction would not be adequate to protect individuals, their children, or their pets. With any future legislation, local Utah communities should be granted the ability to adopt stricter regulations than those passed by the state.
During a typical year in neighborhoods across the country, over 102 million pounds of toxic pesticides are applied in pursuit of a perfect lawn and garden. This figure, up from 90 million pounds in the year 2000, continues to grow despite the growing body of scientific evidence of the public health and environmental consequences. Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. In Utah alone, 11,000 pesticide products are in use, making the need for legislation ever more urgent.
While some focus has turned to the potential costs that new legislation would have for companies and their consumers, as well as enforcement difficulties ””there are only four full-time inspectors state-wide”” proponents have rallied around harrowing stories of pesticide survivors to highlight their need. For example, in 2010 two Utah sisters, 4-year-old Rebecca Toone and 15-month-old Rachel, died after an exterminator dropped fumitoxin aluminum phosphide pellets in burrow holes a mere seven feet from their house. The children’s parents were hospitalized and had difficulty breathing but were later released. While the U.S Environmental Protection Agency has since banned residential uses and restricted non-residential use of the chemical, existing stocks of the product are still allowed to be sold without the updated label restrictions.
Unfortunately, stories like these are widespread. Elva Jenson, neighbor to Sen. Davis, filed a complaint after a lawn care company had sprayed possible carcinogenic pesticides that drifted onto her property during windy conditions. Three months later, the company and applicator were fined a mere $100.
Ultimately, Beyond Pesticides supports the passage of sound IPM and organic policy in communities throughout the country which do not include the spraying of harmful chemicals. States and communities across the country have successfully adopted organic land care ordinances which restrict the use of pesticides both on private properties and in public spaces. Most recently, Richmond, CA approved a pesticide reform ordinance targeting the use of toxic chemical pesticides within city boundaries. Washington D.C. also recently passed legislation which restricts the use of pesticides on District property, near waterways, and in schools and day care centers. While stopping short of an all-out ban, Connecticut currently has a statewide prohibition on the use of toxic pesticides on school grounds. The state of New York also acted to protect children by passing the “Child Safe Playing Field Act” in 2010, which requires that all schools, preschools, and day care centers stop using pesticides on any playgrounds or playing field.
Property owners should be informed about the possible contamination of their property and of threats to their family and pets from the application of pesticides. As Mrs. Pammi eloquently remarks, “We can be lulled into complacency about things that occur around us until another death sparks outrage and interest in the inappropriate use of herbicides and pesticides.” Beyond Pesticides encourages all residents of Utah to contact their elected representatives and urge them to support more stringent pesticide regulations. The time to act against pesticide use in Utah is now!
Take Action: To see what pesticide laws are enacted in your state see Beyond Pesticides’ state pages. Know of a policy that’s not listed, or do you know of efforts to change policy in your state or community? Send and email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.