DC Area Screening to Mark 50th Anniversary of Silent Spring

HYATTSVILLE, MD — SafeLawns founder Paul Tukey has agreed to join a panel with the Rachel Carson Council on Sunday, Sept. 9, following a screening of his Emmy nominated film, A Chemical Reaction, at Busboys Poets in Hyattsville, Md., just north of the District of Columbia.

The free screening of the film, which details the contentious origins of the organic lawn movement in Canada and the United States, begins at 5 p.m. The panel discussion will follow at 6:15.

Veterinarian Dr. Diana Post, the executive director of the Rachel Carson Council, will join Tukey on the panel — which will focus on pesticide reduction strategies in the region. Washington, D.C. recently passed a civic ordinance to restrict many pesticides on public property; Mayor Vincent Gray signed the bill into law earlier this month.

“The film screening is a great opportunity to celebrate the vision of the District of Columbia bringing the pesticide conversation to the forefront,” said Tukey, who plans to showcase the organic lawn care project at Glenstone in nearby Potomac, Md. “We are also honored to mark a seminal book for the environmental movement; Rachel Carson’s legacy continues to endure and inspire us a half century later.”

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Without Weed ‘n Feed and Roundup on Playgrounds, the Children of Yesteryear Still Played

This photo, from 101 years ago, shows families gathered on the organic lawn of the White House for an Easter Egg hunt.

Raise your hand if, like me, you’re over the age of 50. If your hand is in the air, that means you recall a different time and place with a whole lot less stuff. You probably remember not having a cellphone, a Wii or an XBox, and you probably spent a whole bunch more time outside than your children do today. The statistics, in fact, tell us today’s youth spend 75 percent less time outdoors than we did.

But that’s another rant altogether from the point of the day.

When we were outside as children we played everything . . . from soccer, to baseball, football, kickball, dodgeball, field hockey, Frisbee and you name it. We played, for the most part, on lawns that were green and mown. They were, at least as far as I recall, mostly grass.

And we had fun. We won and we lost, occasionally collected blue ribbons and trophies, and occasionally went home disappointed. But if you take away all today’s electronic gadgets and other distractions, we played outside pretty much the same way that our kids play outside — when they actually get out there. We played hard; we tried to win. We laughed, sometimes cried, and bonded with our friends.

One thing was different, though:

Our playing fields were not coated with weed ‘n feed. They weren’t sprayed with Roundup. They probably weren’t even fertilized. And yet we played. Our families gathered for picnics. We made memories.

Inspired by a trip I’m taking to Colorado on Monday in support of a pesticide reduction bill for the city of Durango, I started digging out some historic photos this morning. There’s one, top, from the White House lawn in 1911. This next one, above, is from New York City at the turn of the last century. The one, below, is from a Colorado playground in the 1950s, about 20 years before widespread use of weed ‘n feed came into vogue in cities and towns across North America. Other than some ridiculously cumbersome outfits, it appears that the folks of yesteryear were having fun.

From what I’ve been told, some folks in Durango have their heels dug deeply on this issue of a new law to reduce pesticides. They’re afraid if the weed ‘n feed and Roundup are taken away, except as a last resort, then costs will go up, property values will go down and weeds will overrun the place.

Yet none of those fears, frankly, make a bit of sense when you look at both history and modern times. No one in Colorado is asking to take away lawn mowers and weed whackers. No one is asking to reduce the number of new products that DON’T have a Caution, Warning or Danger label. No one is asking that the children stop playing on the parks and playgrounds.

In Canada, where the Precautionary Principle has been adopted and 80 percent of the population now lives in municipalities where weed ‘n feed and Roundup are banned outright, kids still play outside. In Marblehead, Mass., where weed ‘n feed and Roundup were banned 15 years ago, the playgrounds are still beautiful. The examples of well-kept and unsprayed parks and playgrounds are endless in the U.S. as this movement continues to gain momentum.

Typical questions have been coming from the media in advance of my trip. One reporter observed: “No one is getting sick in town from the pesticides, so people see this as a non issue and they see this attempt at a pesticide bill as overreaching.”

And that is, sadly, the prevailing American attitude. Out of sight, out of mind. When confronted with weed killers, insect killers and fungicides, children don’t generally fall over dead like the enemies they play in their video games.

The synthetic chemical products that the Durango bill proposes to reduce lurk in the shadows, over and under the blades of grass, on the soles of shoes that track through the house, and on the uniforms, skin and in the hair of unsuspecting soccer and football players. Our children today have more autism, more ADHD, more asthma, more cancer and more health issues across the board — and the facts prove that pesticides contribute to this — yet the citizens who are afraid of weeds on the playgrounds refuse to admit any children are getting sick.

And so I’ll be on that plane Monday to remind people that 50 years ago, when childhood cancer was virtually non-existent compared to today, the kids played outside on the lawn and had a hell of a good time.

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Historic DC Pesticide Ban Spurs Interest Across US

Two weeks since SafeLawns announced the historic pesticide protection legislation passed at the Nation’s Capitol, numerous other municipalities have been calling us for information about how it happened. We won’t mention them here; at this point that would only tip the hand of the chemical pesticide lobby groups.

Your every step is important.

First off, here’s the DC bill; the wording is critical:


Each situation brings its own nuances, but here’s link to a post that every municipality should read before it takes on the fight toward a pesticide ban:


The most important first step we would recommend after being involved with dozens of these initiatives? Find your own version of Mary Cheh — an elected official willing to take this on.

Beyond that, give us a call. We’re always willing to help. Feel free to give us a call or send an email to Paul@SafeLawns.org.

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Pesticide Foes Win the Day in DC: Cheh’s Bill Goes to Mayor

Historic Pesticide Bill Aims to Protect Children, Waterways

Though the bill passed today only applies to the District of Columbia, its significance may be felt nationally.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After more than a year of strategic planning and fierce opposition from synthetic chemical lobbying groups, a Washington, D.C., councilor today was able to unanimously pass the nation’s most comprehensive municipal law to restrict pesticides.

Representative Mary’s Cheh’s bill, known as the Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012, is now awaiting the signature of DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who is expected to sign the historic legislation within 10 days.

Provisions of the law — which restricts non-essential “cosmetic” pesticides such as weed ‘n feed and Roundup from all government-owned property in DC — will be implemented by the District Department of the Environment beginning in late 2013 or early 2014. In the meantime, the bill calls for further education of DC businesses and even private homeowners, who will still be able to apply synthetic chemical products on their own properties that do not border waterways.

This is believed to be the first pesticide bill in the United States that reaches onto private property in certain instances — by eliminating synthetic chemical pesticides from all property within 25 feet of a waterway and also any privately owned schools and daycare facilities where children congregate.

Because of the bill’s jurisdiction in the Nation’s Capitol, it’s seen as a severe symbolic blow to the synthetic chemical pesticide industry, which asked its constituency from Maine to California to fight against passage.

“We cannot allow this type of public policy to be the law where our federal legislators and regulators work and live,” said a memo circulated nationally by the lobby group known as the Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE). “Expressing your concern as a U.S. citizen regarding our nation’s capital is valid and important. It is imperative DC Council hears from potential tourists, business travelers and citizens that they will not travel to Washington, D.C. if pests go unchecked.”

Cheh, however, did not back down, as was evident from a February hearing in council chambers in which she clearly voiced her concerns about the toxic products.

Her bill, which does not address public health pesticides such as those used for mosquitoes, ticks and bedbugs etc., was ultimately not opposed, however, by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Unlike RISE, which is financed primarily by Dow, DuPont, Scotts Miracle Gro, Monsanto and other manufacturers, the NPMA consists of applicators.

“Ultimately the applicators can still make a living by applying safer products to deal with weeds and insects,” said Matt Orlins, a staffer for Councilor Cheh who was the chief broker and architect of the bill. “We feel we worked with the local applicators to address their concerns. This bill isn’t going to put any local businesses out of business, even though the chemical manufacturers won’t be able to sell as much of their product here in the District.”

For Alan Cohen, an applicator of safer pesticides in the district, the passage today was the culmination of his own personal lobbying effort. He invited SafeLawns to meet with Cheh’s staff in early 2011 for a strategic planning session.

“As a resident and a father the passage of Mary Cheh’s bill means a lot,” he said. “My children and other children will not be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals where they play or go to school at least in DC. There will be better training for applicators, to learn about what Integrated Pest Management really means, and what it does not mean.”

As owner of BioLogical Pest Management services, Cohen has seen “an astronomical rise in demand for our services this year. From alternatives products for bedbugs to less toxic wasp treatments, to less toxic termite baiting and boric acid treatment, ant and cockroach treatments, etc. Some of our customer base learns about us though list serves set up for moms who want a less toxic environment for their newborns and older children, and /or pets.”

Ultimately, said Orlins this evening, the bill centered around the protection of children and the testimony of the medical community.

“There is a growing body of information based upon animal studies and human epidemiologic research that long-term, low-dose exposure of children to pesticides is associated with a wide range of adverse outcomes,” Jerome A. Paulson, director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Children’s National Medical Center, testified in February. “By allowing the city to limit access to hazardous pesticides, this legislation should decrease children’s exposure to those toxic chemicals and encourage the increased use of integrated pest management.”

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‘Pocket Veto’ Keeps Connecticut Pesticide Law Alive

Richard Roy

His move was nothing short of heroic yesterday, but it also came with a reminder about just how difficult it will be to keep beating back the monster that is the synthetic chemical industry.

Stating “it’s no time to turn our backs on Connecticut’s children,” 10-term state representative Richard Roy was able to kill a bill that would have terminated that state’s historic ban on pesticides on school grounds (grades K-8). His move was based on a technicality of the legislative process: He’s chair of an environmental committee and, as such, refused to call the bill — which amounted to a pocket veto.

“We’ve worked too hard on this,” he said, but he also warned that the chemical industry would not give up. His retirement from the legislature later this year will almost certainly revitalize attempts to allow the toxic products back on school grounds in the future.

“They (the chemical industry) pray at the alter of the almighty dollar,” Roy told us during our screening of the film, A Chemical Reaction, in Hartford two years ago. “They will never, ever stop trying to overturn what we’ve done here.”

For now, though, Connecticut’s law — that was emulated in the state of New York last year — still stands.

The link to Rep. Roy’s web site is below. It never hurts to hear thank yous . . .

And for more about the story: http://www.greenwichtime.com/local/article/Rollback-of-school-pesticide-ban-killed-3510523.php

His efforts were cheered broadly by advocates for pesticide reduction.

“Killing the bill that would have removed the law that bans pesticides on school grounds, grades K-8, was an extremely important move,” said Nancy Alderman, president of the group Environment and Human Health Inc. “To undo a law, that a legislature had voted on as an important step in protecting children’s health while at school, would have been a very serious thing for the legislature to do. Representative Richard Roy is to be commended on his actions.”


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April Flowers: A Poem of the (Sad) Season

April Flowers — 2012, by Suzan Bryher Dill

(published by permission)

The yellow truck is coming around,
putting its poisons into the ground.
The man who drives it is dressed to kill –
goggles, gloves, boots, and a hat with a bill.

He injects a liquid that milky white
next to the plants, to stop any blight.
The law says a paper must tell of the mix,
but the one he provides dates 2006.

It states to wear protective gear
when such a chemical is near,
but mentions too, for us to hear:
“protects” the plants for one whole year.

Aiming for beetles and bugs that bore,
the liquid strikes a higher score.
What’s left in the soil is a lethal potion,
some of which finds its way to the ocean.

It seeps to the creek which runs to the marsh,
and to all that lives there is very harsh;
then into the river, the fish, and the sea,
but another story gives worry to me.

Next to my house the plants start to blossom;
bees and birds arrive, perfectly awesome!
Spring, it seems, is in full swing,
as back to nest and hive they wing.

But something happens as they fly –
they can’t find home, as hard as they try.
Some chemistry from what they drank and ate
altered their systems and changed their fate.

We need beware, as we share this earth
with all the lives designed for birth.
Beware of toxins, man-made for death.
Don’t smell the flowers and risk your breath.

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Fight is on to Save Connecticut’s Landmark Pesticide Bill

A group of community and health advocates and legislators will gather this Thursday, March 8, at 1 p.m. to draw attention to a bill in the state legislature that would revoke Connecticut’s 2005 law that restricts the applications of pesticides on school grounds.

“Connecticut’s landmark law banning the use of toxic pesticides on elementary and middle school fields in Connecticut is in danger of being eliminated,” said a notice circulated today by Nancy Alderman of Environment and Human Health. “Pro-pesticide forces have introduced legislation that would roll back protections for children’s health and once again permit the use of even the most toxic pesticides on school fields.”


When: Thursday, March 8, 2012 1:00 p.m.

Where: Legislative Office Building, Hartford, CT. Room 1A

Senator Ed Meyer, Co-chair, Environment Committee
Representative Dick Roy, Co-Chair, Environment Committee
Public health experts, medical professionals, and landscaping professionals

The Watershed Partnership, Inc., Environment and Human Health, Inc., Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Grassroots Environmental Education and 20 other non-profits, associations and health organizations

Jerome Silbert, M.D., Executive Director, Watershed Partnership, Inc. 203-453-8537, WaterPartnership@SBCglobal.net

Nancy Alderman, President, Environment and Human Health, Inc. 203-248-6583

Doug Wood, Associate Director, Grassroots Environmental Education, 516-883-0887, daw@grassrootsinfo.org

Louis Burch, Program Coordinator, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, 203-503-1314, lburch@citizenscampaign.org

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DC Considers Making Pesticide History

Bill Would Place Nation’s Capitol at Forefront of Pesticide Reduction

Dr. Jerome Paulson of the Children’s National Medical Center testifies on behalf of pesticide reduction on Monday, flanked by Dr. Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Paul Tukey of the Safe Lawns Foundation on Monday. (Chris Weiss photos)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Interviewing witnesses with the precision of a prosecutorial judge, District of Columbia councilwoman Mary Cheh set the stage for an American pesticide showdown Monday afternoon.

In a remarkable session on behalf of the DC Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation the tenured professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University drilled relentlessly into the nuances of a bill, B19-643, “The Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012.” Cheh, a Democrat, called every witness, asked every question and displayed extraordinary stamina in a session that grilled 18 individuals and lasted more than four hours.

I’ve sat through dozens, if not hundreds, of similar sessions and never seen anything quite like Cheh’s attention to detail. In addition to doctors and activists who testified on behalf of the bill, Cheh singlehandedly called pesticide professionals, citizens and a government witness.

The general goal of the Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012 is to review the myriad chemical compounds used as insect, weed and fungal killers and to eliminate all but the least toxic — except in cases of public health where no “safe” alternatives exist. Of the 18 witnesses called, five spoke in favor of the status quo that allows for unrestricted use of synthetic chemicals and 13 were in favor of some measure of pesticide reduction. SafeLawns testified on behalf of a complete elimination of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the landscape, citing several examples of success stories — including nearby Glenstone — where beautiful aesthetics are achieved without synthetic chemical products.

Cheh was especially inquisitive of three doctors who testified on behalf of pesticide reduction strategies.

“Children or adults (exposed to pesticides) can suffer from asthma, heart problems, irregular heart rhythms, recurrent infections, rashes, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle aches, attention deficit-like behavior, altered vision, sense of smell, hearing, taste or touch, balance, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, seizures, weight gain, altered hormones — including premature puberty, growth disruption, ovarian and testicular dysfunction, thyroid problems, and diabetes,” said Dr. Alan Vinitsky, a pediatrician and internist from Gaithersburg, Md. “There can be increased infertility, increased miscarriages, increased congenital malformations, or a fetus can take on the pesticides, and be saddled with the pesticide burden at birth.”

The representatives of the synthetic chemical pesticide industry, on the other hand, generally pointed to EPA approval of their products as an endorsement for safety “when used as directed by the label.”

Kate Shenk of RISE, right, said she feared her local parks, playgrounds and schools would be overrun with pesticides if the District of Columbia disallows synthetic chemical pesticides.

“So you’re saying that these previous witnesses are not truthful?” asked Cheh of Kate Shenk, a recent college graduate who represented herself as a paid advisor to the Responsible Industry of a Sound Environment (RISE), the lead lobbying industry for the synthetic chemical fertilizer and pesticide industry. RISE representatives appear at virtually all U.S. legislative attempts to reduce pesticides. The organization’s goal is to advance the theory that without the synthetic chemical pesticides then children’s and environmental health will suffer — yet Cheh was clearly not buying into the paid rhetoric.

“We clearly have more work to do here to determine who is telling the truth,” she said.

Though the hearing was preliminary in nature, the bill is historically sweeping in its potential. Although all synthetic chemical pesticides would still be available under the bill in cases of public health situations where no reduced-risk alternatives exist, the spirt of the DC bill calls for elimination of synthetic chemicals except as a last resort.

In reality, the District of Columbia is a small market due to the relatively small population of less than a million people. Yet people on both sides of the argument were clearly aware of the District of Columbia’s strategic importance in the pesticide debate.

In other words, if an elected official in Maryland, or Virginia, or Oregon for that matter, hears that Washington, D.C., has banned or restricted pesticides, it will likely get that politician’s attention.

It’s too soon to tell how the DC legislation will play out, but if the day’s final witness was any indication, then history may be in the making.

“I’m here to testify on behalf of the Pesticide Education and Control Amendment Act of 2012,” said Christophe Tulou, director of the DC Department of the Environment.

Why is that significant?

Because it would be Tulou’s job to do the extra work to monitor, manage and enforce the new pesticide law if it passes.

Most government officials we’ve met in the past have voted against extra hours, tasks and procedures.

Both Cheh and Tulou are saying loudly and clearly: Bring it on.

Christophe Tulou welcomed the challenge of pesticide reduction in the District of Columbia.

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Connecticut’s Historic Pesticide Legislation Threatened by IPM Bill

Anti-Pesticide Activists Ask for Support at Feb. 22 Hearing

The state that made pesticide history in 2005 may roll back its protection of children if a new bill supported by the chemical industry is successful.

Bill 5155 — “AN ACT MODIFYING THE BAN ON PESTICIDE APPLICATIONS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS” — is sending shock waves through the environmental and health community that has worked diligently to keep the original bill intact in the past several years.

“The new bill is designed to undo the Connecticut state statute that bans the use of pesticides on school grounds grades K-8,” said Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc., a Yale-based organization that has conducted and published studies concerning pesticide toxicity. “The state of Connecticut worked for years to protect our smallest school children from many different toxins, including pesticides. Pesticides are one of those toxins that have been well documented as having the ability to cause harm to health — especially for small children. Pesticides are designed to kill living things — whether those things are unwanted plants or unwanted insects.
Children are also living things — and that is why the state has said in the past that it will protect our smallest children form pesticide exposures while they are in our schools.”

In the years since the original bill was introduced by state senator Ed Meyer, a robust natural lawn industry has sprung forth in an around Connecticut. Numerous groundskeepers have adapted practices that allow for the maintenance of excellent playing fields — yet the synthetic chemical industry has never stopped lobbying the legislature to roll back the protection to include “integrated pest management.” IPM allows for synthetic chemical pesticides at the discretion of the licensed applicators.

“The pro-pesticide strategy is to call the elimination of the pesticide ban ‘Integrated Pest Management,’ but what it really stands for is business as usual,” said Dr. Jerome Silbert, a pathologist from Connecticut. “If this bill (5155) passes it will be a major setback for the protection of young children from involuntary exposure to toxic lawn pesticides.”

Connecticut’s law has served as an inspiration in New York, which enacted a similar ban on lawn pesticides around schools in 2011, as well as other states that have considered school pesticide bans including, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Passage of Connecticut’s bill was attributed, in large part, to EHHI’s publication titled Risks from Lawn Care Pesticides.

“This was well thought out and well explored law by all parties,” said Alderman. “The state should not roll this law back because industry and SOME grounds keepers would like to use pesticides again under the guise of Integrated Pest Management. When IPM has been mandated in other states it has proven to be unenforceable — because it allows pesticides — and once pesticides are allowed one cannot tell how much or how many times they are used. IPM has not proven to be a workable method when mandated for schools.”

Alderman, Silbert and others are asking supporters of the original school pesticide ban to make their voices heard at a hearing in Hartford at the state house this coming Wednesday, Feb. 22, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Testimony and letters of support can also be emailed to Allison Blancato, clerk of the Planning and Development Committee at Allison.Blancato@cga.ct.gov.

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All Eyes on New Jersey School Pesticide Bill

Our colleagues in New Jersey are mobilizing anxiously in anticipation of next week’s critical vote in the state legislature that could remove toxic pesticides from school grounds and day care centers.

Suzanne Aptmann of the Northern New Jersey SafeYards Alliance did a great job of getting the issue covered in her local newspaper: http://westdeptford.patch.com/articles/legislature-could-move-on-school-pesticide-ban-next-week.

Safe landscape proponents from across the country are also eagerly anticipating the vote, as is the chemical pesticide industry. Tom Delaney, director of government affairs for the Professional Landcare Network (Planet), denounced the bill as propaganda and is asking all lawn care professionals to lobby against its passage.

We need to urge everyone in New Jersey to call their local legislators and urge them to pass the bill, which was co-sponsored by 40 elected officials.

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