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Alaskan Non-Profit Stops Pesticide Use on Local Park

(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2010) Under pressure from the grassroots group Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), the city of Anchorage canceled plans to spray the herbicides 2,4-D and dicamba on the Town Square Park citing concerns over the safety of children playing in the park. ACAT members attended the Anchorage Assembly public meeting with an NBC TV affiliate and discussed their reservations over spraying Town Square Park, a popular gathering place for families, workers eating their lunches, and tourists. Soon after, the mayor announced the spraying would be canceled, and that the city would remove dandelions by hand. Environmentalists called the decision a victory for the health of Anchorage residents and the environment.

2,4-D is associated with a host of adverse human impacts, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental effects, as well as water contamination and toxicity to aquatic organisms. It is one of the most widely used herbicide for the control of broadleaf weeds in commercial agriculture and residential landscapes in the U.S. About 46 million pounds of 2,4-D are used annually, with 16 million pounds used in non-agricultural settings, including parks, playing fields, and residential lawns. Its health risks prompted a Special Review in 1986. A few years later in a unique move, several large pesticides companies with a common interest in keeping 2,4-D on the market formed a task force to keep the herbicide on the market. In 2007, EPA reversed its decision did not complete the Special Review. In 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned EPA to cancel all uses of 2,4-D. Once part of the deadly duo of chemicals that made up Agent Orange, can also be contaminated with several forms of dioxin, including 2,3,7,8-TCDD, a known carcinogen. Studies have also documented that once tracked indoors from lawns, 2,4-D can stay indoors (on carpets) for up to a year.

Dicamba, originally registered in 1967, is a benzoic acid herbicide used in agricultural, industrial, and residential settings. This neurotoxic pesticide is linked to organ damage and reproductive effects. A 1992 study of farmers by the National Cancer Institute found that exposure to dicamba approximately doubled the farmers’ risk of contracting the cancer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma two decades after exposure. Symptoms poisoning include muscle cramps, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, loss of voice, and swollen glands. It has attracted attention because of the toxicity of its contaminants, both dioxin and nitrosamines, and its propensity to leach through soil.

Beautiful landscapes are possible without 2,4-D, dicamba or other pesticides. Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes webpage provides information on pesticide hazards and information on organic management strategies. We also provide an online training, Organic Land Care Basic Training for Municipal Officials and Transitioning Landscapers, to help communities around the country go pesticide-free. The training is geared toward school or park and recreation officials, however landscapers interested in transitioning are encouraged to view the program. Contact Beyond Pesticides to learn more about using this a resource for your community.

ACAT’s success sends a great message to get involved in your local government and voice your concerns to effect change! For more information on what you can do to eliminate unnecessary pesticide use in your community, visit Beyond Pesticides Lawn and Landscapes program page. Also, pledge your yard, park or other community or business-managed green space as organically managed. Tell us how many acres (or what fraction of an acre) you can declare as organic!

In related news, the Alaska Community Action on Toxics has more recently been working toward blocking herbicide spraying along Alaskan railroad tracks. The state initially granted permission to the Alaska Railroad Corporation to spray glyphosate along 30 miles of tracks, but temporarily halted spraying when ACAT questioned the herbicide’s safety, since it can leach into groundwater and effect salmon habitat. The railroad has not used herbicides for 26 years due to public opposition. To read more about this issue, please refer to Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News.

Source: Associated Press


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