by Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Recent anti-pesticide laws enacted by local jurisdictions have moved members of the Montgomery County Council to examine the county’s current pesticide practices, both public and private facility management and lawn care/landscaping services, but not in farming or agricultural land uses.

DC’s Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act was passed unanimously in August 2012. It restricts non-essential “cosmetic” pesticides from all government-owned property and restricts the use of pesticides on private property around schools and child-occupied facilities and properties next to waterways.

In July 2013, Takoma Park, MD City Council passed unanimously “Safe Grow Act of 2013,” which restricts the use of certain pesticides on all city-owned and private property within the City.

Residents in DC and Takoma Park – Julie Taddeo and Catherine Cummings – brought their concerns to their respective council members about the health risks and exposure to pesticides, especially to young children, as there is a growing amount of research linking early exposure to synthetic pesticides and childhood leukemias and cancers. (See Policy Statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.)

In the Kentlands neighborhood in Gaithersburg, the community is considering alternatives to synthetic pesticides currently used in the common landscaped areas after concerned residents brought up health risks to exposure of these synthetic pesticides that are applied every fall and spring.  In 2011, the Kentlands Citizens Assembly voted to stop spraying pesticides in tot-lots due to residents’ concerns of pesticide exposure to children. The other concern is that the pesticides also run off into the local Muddy Branch stream and that local drinking water health suffers.

A pesticide is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “any substance or mixture of substances intended for: preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.”

Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal, who chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, requested a discussion and presentation on September 9 at the Council’s Transportation, Energy and Environment Committee to inform the Council members about the county’s current practices, to hear testimony from Takoma Park and DC legislators, and to hear from people that are for and against local legislation.

So, what comes next?

Keith Levchenko, Senior Legislative Analyst for Montgomery County Council says that, “Currently, no legislation has been introduced at the County Council.  Council member Roger Berliner, Chairman of the T&E Committee, announced at the T&E discussion that he is considering introducing pesticide legislation.  If legislation is introduced, then a public hearing and committee discussion specific to the bill will be scheduled.”

Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin is the founder of Green Gaithersburg, a member of the newly formed Chesapeake Greens Collaborative, a coalition of environmentally friendly organizations that promotes sustainability and sound environmental practices in our communities.

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