(Beyond Pesticides, October 28, 2014) A landmark ordinance to protect children, pets, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards of unnecessary lawn and landscape pesticide use was introduced yesterday in Montgomery County, Maryland by County Council Vice President George Leventhal, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. Bill 52-14 is based upon growing concerns in the community of the health risks associated with exposure to pesticides, and creates a safe space for residents in Montgomery County by prohibiting the use of non-essential land care pesticides on both public and private property.
Introduction of this ordinance follows successful lawn pesticide regulations on private and public property in the City of Takoma Park in Montgomery County, and provides equal safeguards for human health and the environment. Similar cosmetic pesticide policies have been in place in Canadian provinces for many years. Unfortunately, most U.S. jurisdictions are unable to enact these same basic safeguards for their citizens. Â Maryland is one of seven states that does not prohibit local governments from enacting protections from pesticides that are stricter than state laws. The role of local government in imposing pesticide use requirements is important to the protection of public health and the environment. This right was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin Public Intervenor, Town of Casey v. Mortier, June 21, 1991. In this case, the Court affirmed the rights of U.S. cities and towns to regulate pesticides that are not explicitly curtailed by state legislatures. However, after the Supreme Court ruling, the chemical industry, both manufacturer and service provider trade groups, went to state legislatures across the country and lobbied the states to take away or restrict the authority of local political subdivisions to restrict pesticide use on private property. In Â protecting the rights of Â local political subdivisions within Maryland to exercise their authority to impose pesticide use restrictions, the state is enabling the protection of the health and welfare of Maryland residents
Bill 52-14, co-sponsored by Councilmember Marc Elrich and stewarded by Safe Grow Montgomery, a coalition of individual volunteers, organizations and businesses, represents the latest in a growing movement to prevent exposure to chemicals that run-off, drift, and volatilize from their application site, causing involuntary poisoning of children and pets, polluting local water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay, and widespread declines of honey bees and other wild pollinators.
â€śLike restrictions on smoking in public areas, this ordinance is a common-sense approach to regulating toxic products that have been linked to numerous adverse human health impacts,â€ť said Jay Feldman, executive director of the national nonprofit group Beyond Pesticides. â€śGiven widespread availability of organic methods to manage pests and weeds, toxic chemicals simply arenâ€™t necessary for beautiful lawns and landscapes.â€ť
Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are possible and/or known carcinogens, Â 18 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 19 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 11 have been linked to birth defects, 14 are neurotoxic, 24 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 25 are sensitizers and/or irritants.
â€śThis bill is aimed at protecting the health of families, and especially children, from the unnecessary risks associated with the use of certain cosmetic pesticides that have been linked to a wide-range of diseases, and which provide no health benefits,â€ť said Council Vice President Leventhal. â€śThis is a bill that balances the rights of homeowners to maintain a beautiful lawn with the rights of residents who prefer to not be exposed to chemicals that have known health effects. I view this bill as a starting point in our discussion, which can be tweaked along the way.â€ť
Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages passage of Bill 52-14 by the Montgomery County Council, which would put the County on the forefront of health and environmental sustainability efforts. For more information, see the’ Lawns and Landscapes program page, and for resources to advocate for similar policies in your own community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Tools for Change webpage.
Source: Montgomery County Council
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.