Two statewide environmental groups released a report this month documenting "unacceptably high" levels of pesticide use in New York. The report, "Avoidable Risk: Pesticide Use Patterns in New York State for 1999," is the New York Public Interest Research Group and Environmental Advocates' third annual analysis of pesticide use and sales data reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
"Once again, we're seeing patterns of heavy pesticide use, particularly for frivolous purposes such as lawn care," said Audrey Thier, pesticide project director of Environmental Advocates and author of the report. "We believe that much of New York's pesticide use is entirely avoidable by switching to safer products and alternative practices."
"New York has been a leader on pesticide issues but we clearly need to do more," said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group. "We're calling on the State Legislature to ban the use of hazardous pesticides for cosmetic purposes, as Quebec did last year, and to investigate the disturbingly high levels of pesticide use in our cities."
Assemblyman Thomas P. DiNapoli and Senator Kenneth LaValle have introduced a bill to ban the aesthetic use of pesticides in New York. Assemblyman Keith Wright and Senator Carl Marcellino have introduced the Urban Pesticide Bill, which would allow local jurisdictions to pass their own pesticide regulations.
Major report findings
- 3.2 million gallons and 25.3 million pounds of pesticides were applied by commercial applicators or sold to farmers in 1999. This is lower than in 1998, but almost equal to 1997 levels;
- Pesticide use is heaviest in densely-populated downstate counties, as well as the more urbanized upstate counties;
- The majority of pesticide use in New York is for non-agricultural purposes;
- Pesticide use, transportation and storage pose new security concerns in the wake of 9/11.
Among the highest areas of pesticide use were Long Island, Westchester, New York City, and more urbanized upstate counties such as Erie and Monroe. Wayne, Orleans and Suffolk Counties were among the top five agricultural counties. New York City's overall contribution to the statewide totals showed a decline from 1998, which could be due to reporting errors (discussed at greater length in a separate report released for New York City).
The report also calls on counties to opt in to the state's new "Pesticide Neighbor Notification Law." To date, six counties - Albany, Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk, Westchester, and Tompkins - have adopted this right-to-know law.
For more information contact Laura Haight at 518-588-5481.