Monday, May 9, 2011

The Widespread Use of Toxic Lawn Chemicals in the U.S.

Last Thursday I discussed the diminishing use of pesticides in Canada as beautifying agents for private and public lawns. One small town, Hudson, Quebec, started the movement 20 years ago; laws banning this needless cosmetic use of dangerous chemicals have now reached the provincial level.

In the United States, unfortunately, the fight hasn’t been as successful. For the most part, public and private lawns continue to be sprayed with chemicals that contribute to the sickening of children, adults, pets, animals and our water supply.

What price are we willing to pay to eradicate every dandelion? (By the way, I saw dandelion greens for sale at the farmers’ market this weekend for $2.50 a bunch.)

Unlike Hudson, most American municipalities are powerless to pass any meaningful law restricting pesticide use, since, as Paul Tukey wrote in his SafeLawns blog in January:

"[T]he chemical industry has been successful in lobbying for pesticide preemption laws in 41 states that made it illegal for cities and towns to pass laws more restrictive than the state law. Only Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wyoming and the District of Columbia do not have a pesticide preemption law."
The lawn care companies have done a masterful job in leading us to believe that chemical intervention is necessary for a perfectly green space. Some municipalities, though, are fighting this marketing blitz through grassroots (pun very much intended) efforts. Camden, a coastal town in Maine, is the home of Citizens for a Green Camden. The story of the group’s founding would be as quaint and charming as Camden itself if it weren’t so serious:
"Green Camden was founded by a small group of concerned property owners who believe Camden should eliminate the use of harmful chemicals on the lawns in their town. A poison notification sign on the library grounds was the catalyst that prompted Marsha Smith to contact Beedy Parker, Patrisha McLean and Laurie Wolfrum about forming a group who shared the belief their children's health was more important than a weed free lawn. Soon Harry Smith, Molly Stone, Amy Dietrich and Louisa Enright had joined the group."
I’ll discuss New York State’s “Child Safe Playing Fields Act” tomorrow. Until then, join me in pondering the toxic ramifications of our public and private green spaces.


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