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Aspen City Council Considers Pesticides Pre-Notification Law

(Beyond Pesticides, December 7, 2011) Aspen City, Colorado, is considering mandating pre-notification of pesticide use so that neighbors and passersby can avoid being exposed to possible toxic chemicals. The notification provides for a 48-hour notice before application, as well as information on the pesticide to be used and its potential health effects. However, the Council stopped short of banning pesticide use outright throughout the city until it could gather additional information on the legal ramification of challenging state preemption law.

City Council staff last week requested direction from the Council on whether notification should be required before spraying pesticides, whether minimal restrictions should be imposed on homeowners who spray and whether the city should draft an ordinance that would challenge state preemption laws. Council members are in consensus that the city should move toward mandating pre-notification, and in the meantime continue educational outreach regarding land management practices, which can be more effective than pesticide use. Currently, state law requires pesticide applicators to post notices on properties after they have been sprayed, but not before. While an outright ban would challenge state law, mandating pre-notification would sidestep it. Local governments cannot directly regulate commercial pesticide applicators, but they can regulate homeowners’ pesticide use and require them to provide notice before they spray. The state of Colorado currently has a preemption law, which means local municipalities cannot pass stricter pesticide laws than the state. Currently, 41 states prohibit local jurisdictions from restricting pesticides. However, in January this year Connecticut introduced a bill in the state legislature to overturn its preemption law which currently prohibits local governments from imposing pesticide restrictions on private property and allow municipalities to ban and regulate the use of lawn care pesticides. This bill did not advance in the state Senate.

Aspen City’s draft ordinance provides for notification of pesticide application 48 hours before application along with the posting of clearly visible signs that must remain posted 72 hours after application. The notification is also to include: name and registration of pesticide; location, date and time of application; the statement, “The EPA cannot guarantee that registered pesticides do not pose risks, and unnecessary exposure to pesticides should be avoided”; and a description of potential adverse effects of the pesticide based on the material safety data sheet of the pesticide as well as any additional warning information related to the pesticide, along with the name and telephone number of the pesticide coordinator.

The neighboring city of Boulder enacted a pesticide pre-notification ordinance in 1981. In order to comply with state law, the ordinance makes the homeowner or property manager responsible for pre-notification. Aspen City’s environmental health director, Lee Casin, noted that the city’s parks department is one of the most progressive in the state and does not need to spray because of its turf management practices. The city council agreed that Aspen should be a leader in its approach to pesticides, but that a battle with the state would have to wait.

The issue originally came to City Council in June after Aspenite Chris Wurtele lobbied elected officials to enact an ordinance that would, at a minimum, require City Hall to use organic or “least toxic” pesticides on city property and notify the public prior to their application. Mr. Wurtele was exposed to the pesticide bifenthrin (a synethic pyrethroid) a year ago when he spent about 15 minutes in his driveway after the chemical was applied to his and his neighbor’s trees. Shortly after the exposure, he began suffering from chills, sweats and temple pressure. Mr. Wurtele proposed to the city an ordinance that would mandate that toxic pesticides can only be used as a last resort and the location, notification and time the chemicals are used be regulated.

Pre-notification is important to allow people, especially those chemically sensitive, to avoid unwanted chemical exposures. Numerous incidents resulting from a failure to notify the public of chemical applications have led to serious injuries and even death. Recently, in Ohio 47 students reportedly fell ill after their school’s hired pest control company sprayed herbicides on nearby playing fields without children and parents aware of the spraying. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposures and can become exposed in parks, playing fields and other community areas. Numerous scientific studies find that pesticides typically used in schools are linked to chronic health effects such as cancer, asthma, neurological and immune system diseases, reproductive problems, and developmental and learning disabilities.

Many communities across the country have taken a stand against the use of toxic pesticides on their lawns and landscapes. Most recently, the state of New York passed the Child Safe Playing Fields Act (A 7937-C) that prohibits the use of toxic pesticides on school and daycare center playgrounds, turf, athletic and playing fields. In New Jersey, over 30 communities have made their parks pesticide-free zones and have adopted an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for managing town property by passing a resolution adopting a pesticide reduction policy. Connecticut and Illinois have also moved forward to reduce children’s exposures to lawn pesticides.

Take Action: To see what pesticide laws are enacted in your state see Beyond Pesticides’ state pages. Know of a policy that’s not listed, or do you know of efforts to change policy in your state or community? Send and email to [email protected].

Source: Aspen Daily News Online


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