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Daily News Archive
From May 27, 2002

City of Lawrence, Kansas Establishes Pesticide-Free Parks

Local action leads to local change and, then, global change. So, when the city of Lawrence, Kansas decided to stop using pesticides this spring on three small public parks, totaling 12 acres, environmentalists applauded . . . loudly. Terry Shistar, long-time environmental activist, a member of the Greens, and board member of Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP said, "These are pretty small parks, but it's a start." The new action goes beyond a previous city commitment to reduce pesticide use by going pesticide-free.

The city's action gets underway just as the nation's homeowners are gearing up to dump upwards of 50 million pounds (active ingredients) of herbicides on their home lawns and gardens this spring and summer at a cost of nearly $500 million, according to the most recent EPA data (1999). Another $1.5+ billion is spent on another 87 million pounds of insecticides, fungicides, and other pesticides, totaling over $2 billion in pesticides purchased and used by homeowners. When adding in the expenditures for commercial sales, like the local lawn care companies, as well as industry and government use, the expenditures rise by more than $1.5 billion for another 151 million pounds of pesticides applied.

The EPA's National Home and Garden Pesticide Use Survey (1992) found that people do not take adequate precautions when using pesticides. "Sixty to ninety percent of the survey respondents said they wash their hands after applying pesticides. However, only about 33% or less of the respondents took further precautions, such as: wearing impermeable gloves, long pants, or a long-sleeve shirt; changing clothes after pesticide applications, removing or covering food during indoor applications' placing the treated area off-limits; mixing pesticides outdoors; or avoiding spraying outdoors on windy days."

Almost half, or 47 percent, of survey respondents with children under the age of five said they stored at least one pesticide in an unlocked cabinet within the reach of children. At least 85 percent of all households have at least one pesticide stored in around their home. Most families have from one to five pesticide products stored. According to the survey 36 percent of households dispose of leftover pesticides improperly by pouring them down the sink or toilet. The survey found that about half of the people who use a commercial lawn care company recall getting information regarding pesticide use and safety precautions.

Cities across the country are considering bans similar to Lawrence, Kansas. Action in a number of Canadian cities, which have established pesticide-free ordinances, have attracted worldwide attention. In October, 1996, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass landmark pesticide ordinance which bans the use of the most toxic pesticides. Now, communities are saying "NO" to pesticides.