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Daily News Blog

23
Apr

New York City Council Passes Landmark Law Eliminating the Use of Toxic Pesticides in City Parks and Playgrounds, Stipulates List of Allowed Materials

It all started with Paula Rogovin and her third grade class. They went down to city call. Wrote letters, shared artwork, and got the attention of Ben Kallos, who sponsored the bill.

It all started with New York City public school teacher Paula Rogovin and her kindergarten class. They went down to city call, wrote letters, shared artwork, and got the attention of Council Member Ben Kallos, who sponsored reform legislation.

(Beyond Pesticides, April 23, 2021) Yesterday, on Earth Day, the New York City Council passed landmark legislation to eliminate the use of toxic pesticides in parks and playgrounds. This new law eliminates the use of toxic pesticides, like glyphosate/Roundup, codifying a ban on pesticides with an allowance for only those permitted under federal organic standards.

A few hours before passage of the bill, Intro. 1524 (see detailed factsheet below), the measure’s sponsor, Council Member Ben Kallos, and the Speaker of the Council, Corey Johnson,  were joined at a press conference by: Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute; those who began the movement for the legislation, retired teacher Paula Rogovin and some of her fomer students from Public School (PS) 290 in Manhattan; Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides; and, Patti and Doug  Wood, executive director and program director, respectively, of Grassroots Environmental Education.

“Parks should be for playing not pesticides,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “All families should be able to enjoy our city parks without having to worry that they are being exposed to toxic pesticides that could give them and their families cancer. I look forward to working with all of our city agencies to ban toxic pesticides and keep our children safe.”

“We no longer burn coal in our buildings, we don’t light our offices with gas lamps, and we shouldn’t be using toxic and dangerous chemicals in our public spaces,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson ahead of the vote. “Our NYCHA [New York City Housing Authority] residents deserve and our families enjoying a day in the park deserve better. New Yorkers deserve better.”

“This legislation goes beyond banning a specific pesticide and recognizes that toxic pesticides across the board have no place in our municipal parks and playgrounds and that alternative practices and products are available for effective and resilient land management,” 

Bertha Lewis, president of The Black Institute, speaking at press conference with bill sponsor Council Member Ben Kallos.

said Mr. Feldman.

In its report, Poison Parks, The Black Institute, points out the disproportionate harm to people of color neighborhoods in New York City, and documents that the city landscapers who handle dangerous pesticides are almost all black and brown people. Ms. Lewis pointed out that this disproportionate harm is a classic example of environmental racism.

According to Beyond Pesticides, the approach to land care specified by Intro 1524 identifies an allowed substance list (National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under federal organic law) to ensure that the products and practices used are compatible with the organic systems that protect people and local ecology, including the waterways that surround New York City. “It is this approach to pesticide reform that will effectively stop the unnecessary use of hazardous pesticides applied in parks and public spaces throughout the city,” said Mr. Feldman.

While addressing urgent local concerns related to public health and the environment, passage of this law in New York City makes an important contribution to confronting the climate and the escalating biodiversity crises, including pollinator declines. Petroleum-based, synthetic pesticides release carbon into the environment, as a result of their manufacture and use, and their application to landscapes results in the lost opportunity to sequester atmospheric carbon in organic soil systems.

According to public health advocates, by restricting pesticide use, the City will provide critical protections for community health, particularly for children, the elderly, and vulnerable population groups that suffer from compromised immune and neurological systems, cancer, reproductive problems, respiratory illness and asthma, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or learning disabilities. The legislation meets an urgent need for hazard reduction at a time of increasing awareness of the danger that pesticides pose to human health and the environment, exacerbating the immunological, neurological, and respiratory risks associated with COVID-19. Advocates also point out that neither the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) nor the responsible state agencies (in New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation, but Departments of Agriculture in most of the country) are not adequately protection people and the environment from pesticides, creating an urgency for local action like New York City took yesterday.

Beyond Pesticides’ Jay Feldman delivered this statement in New York City at a press conference on pesticide ban bill, April 22, at Stanley Isaacs Playground:

Earth Day is about local action. This legislation, Intro 1524, brings New York City into the modern era of parks and playground management, recognizing the hazards of pesticides and the viability and benefits of organic practices and materials that protect health and the environment.

Pesticides are associated with adverse health effects that are familiar to us—cancer and immune, neurological, and respiratory issues. They increase vulnerability or exacerbate adverse health conditions.

This legislation intersects with the city’s goal to become carbon net neutral—by eliminating petroleum- based pesticides—as we confront the climate crisis and the collapse of biodiversity.

The work does not end here. It begins here. What does that mean?

The resources are available to work with parks to adopt organic land management. Organic has been widely adopted in agriculture and the same soil management practices are being used in parks across the country. People and groups like Beyond Pesticides and companies like Stonyfield Organic and Osborne Organics are standing by and ready to lend their expertise. Stonyfield is offering $60,000 in resources to this effort. Some park conservancies in the city, including the Brooklyn Bridge and Battery Park, are leaders on organic landscape management and serve as models for parks across the city.

We have reached an exciting moment for New York City with this legislation. The legislation puts the city in a position to protect more people and the largest acreage of parks, playgrounds, and waterways than any other jurisdiction in the country.

Beyond Pesticides is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., which works with allies in protecting health and the environment with science, policy, and action to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides.

FACTS-AT-A-GLANCE:
Intro 1524: Protecting New York City Residents from Toxic Pesticides
(See factsheet pdf)

Intro 1524, introduced by City Councilmember Ben Kallos, will safeguard New York City residents by eliminating the use of toxic pesticides on all NYC property. These protections are critical for vulnerable populations like children, elderly, and pregnant mothers. Those exposed to toxic pesticides in city parks as residents and as city workers managing sites are disproportionately people of color. While existing Local Law 37 made important progress in reducing some dangerous pesticides on the market, it continues to permit a range of synthetic chemicals linked to chronic health effects in people and population declines in wildlife like bees, butterflies, and birds. There is now greater understanding of pesticide dangers, and the healthy, sustainable practices and products that can successfully replace all toxic pesticide use. Intro 1524 restricts the use of toxic pesticides on NYC property in favor of materials regulated as organic or designated minimum risk—the least-toxic on the market. Intro 1524 is an opportunity to improve the health and safety of NYC workers, residents, and their pets, improve the city’s air and water quality, protect threatened wildlife populations like pollinators, and fight the climate crisis.

Background on Current Practices

  • Local Law 371, passed in 2005, restricts the use of pesticides identified as carcinogenic or developmental toxicants, yet it continues to permit a range of synthetic chemicals that present hazards to human health and the environment.
  • In 2018, there were over 284,000 applications of more than 156,000 lbs. of toxic pesticides to NYC properties. Each application puts both applicators and the public at risk.
  • Although the use of carcinogenic glyphosate has declined, it accounted for 41% of all liquid herbicide use in NYC in 2018. With continued use, Council action is needed to protect at-risk people and communities.

Improving Protections

  • Intro 1524 brings NYC in line with the latest science on pest management, thereby eliminating the dangers that pesticides pose to residents.
  • Intro 1524 will incentivize land and pest managers to embrace safer, cost-effective, organic methods of addressing insect and weed problems by focusing on prevention, rather than product use after pests have already become a problem.
  • A waiver provision will allow pesticide use only in emergency situations. This will ensure toxic pesticides are used only as a last resort when there is a threat to public health or it is required by state or federal law.

Addressing Long-standing, Disproportionate Harm to NYC Communities of Color

  • Poison Parks, a report from NYC-based environmental justice organization The Black Institute, finds significant disparities regarding where pesticides are applied in the City, with low-income people of color communities at greatest risk.2
  • For low-income residents living in apartment complexes, public parks are often the only place to take children for play time. NYC school children use the parks for recreation. As the Poison Parks report explains, “Poisoning parks with toxic chemicals is yet another strike against the Black and Brown community. Enjoying a free, public space should not carry unexpected consequences.”
  • Glyphosate, identified as a carcinogen by international agencies, is sprayed at much higher rates in parks within communities of color. “A chemical that disproportionately impacts people of color is an act of environmental racism,” finds the Poison Parks “When Black and Brown families that are economically disadvantaged must bear the burden of toxic exposure at a higher rate than white families, there is no argument that can change the racist nature of the subject.”

 Health Effects of Pesticides on Children

  • In a landmark report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for governments to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides. AAP wrote that scientific evidence “…demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.”3
  • Children take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify harmful chemicals.4
  • Pesticides increase the risk of developing asthma, exacerbate a previous asthmatic condition, or even trigger asthma attacks in susceptible children.5
  • Children with elevated levels of commonly used pyrethroid insecticides, applied to manage common pests, are more likely to have ADHD (learning disabilities), and other behavioral issues.6 Pyrethroids were applied roughly 100,000 times in NYC in 2018, accounting for 61% of all insecticide use.

 Tracking State and Local Reform, and Legal Liability

  • Over 150 communities throughout the United States have passed policies that restrict the use of toxic pesticides.7
  • Major urban areas in the United States are increasingly passing laws that take protective steps for local residents in light of inaction by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Portland (Maine), Baltimore (Maryland), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), and Montgomery County (Maryland) have all enacted laws with criteria similar to the pesticide restrictions in Intro 1524 that allow the use of organic compatible products authorized by federal law.
  • Increasingly, communities are looking to eliminate toxic pesticide use in light of recent court decisions and legal liability concerns regarding the herbicide glyphosate, including multimillion dollar awards resulting from a California school groundskeeper’s cancer diagnosis.8
  • Organic land management is an important piece of a city’s environmental strategy to become carbon neutral, eliminating petroleum-based pesticides.

____________

1 NYC Local Law 37. 2021. Pesticide Use by Agencies Report – 2018. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/pesticide/pesticide-use-report2018.pdf.

2 The Black Institute. 2020. Poison Parks. https://theblackinstitute.org/poisonparks/.

3American Academy of Pediatrics. 2012. Pediatrics. peds.2012-2757; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2757 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/11/21/peds.2012-2757.

4US EPA, Office of the Administrator, Environmental Health Threats to Children, EPA 175-F-96-001, September 1996. See also: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/pest.htm.

5Hernández, AF., Parrón, T. and Alarcón, R. 2011. Pesticides and asthma. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol.11(2):90-6.

6 Oulhote, Y. and Bouchard, M. 2013. Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate and Pyrethroid Pesticides and Behavioral Problems in Canadian Children. Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 121, No. 11-12 https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1306667.

7Beyond Pesticides. 2019. Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies.

https://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/lawns-and-landscapes/tools-for-change.

8Levin, S and Greenfield, P. 2018. Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller caused man’s cancer. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/10/monsanto-trial-cancer-dewayne-johnson-ruling.    

 

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3 Responses to “New York City Council Passes Landmark Law Eliminating the Use of Toxic Pesticides in City Parks and Playgrounds, Stipulates List of Allowed Materials”

  1. 1
    Joshua Lane Says:

    This is good news

  2. 2
    Mary Bluntzer Says:

    I am so encouraged by this action but when I tried to print the article it is obstructed by your lists. The information in this article is critical for anyone wishing to imitate your success. Why would you make copy difficult? It seems inconsistent with your purpose.

  3. 3
    Beyond Pesticides Says:

    Hello,

    We reviewed our printing format and the article should be available for printing now without any obstructions.

    Please let us know if you have any other suggestions or questions by emailing us at [email protected]

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