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From December 09, 2005                                                                                                           

North Carolina Residents Petition Town to Stop Use of Pesticides
(Beyond Pesticides, December 9, 2005)
The Town Council of Chapel Hill, North Carolina is currently reviewing a petition signed by 33 residents requesting that the town stop its use of all herbicides and most insecticides in public parks.

"'There are some people who want perfect soccer fields,'" one of the petitioning residents, Julie Vann, told a local reporter. "'But we should value the health of our children over the perfection of our grass.'"

Chapel Hill is actually closer to eliminating its use of pesticides than most towns around the country. In 1999, the Town Council responded positively to local demand and passed an integrated pest management (IPM) plan to limit its use of hazardous pesticides on public lands, including parks. According to residents, it is now time the town go all the way.

According to an article in Chapel Hill News, the herbicide most commonly used by the town is RoundUp™. In 2004, the town used 459 diluted gallons of the over-the-counter herbicide, at a cost of $1,020. Many people erroneously think that Roundup™ is a less toxic pesticide even though its active ingredient, glyphosate, has an EPA acute toxicity rating of two out of five (one being most toxic). The controversy around Roundup™ is most centered on its actual product formulation and surfactants, which the EPA does not evaluate. Scientific studies show that the product formulation is at least twice as toxic as its active ingredient alone and associate exposure with hormonal disruption, reproductive effects and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. (See Daily News.)

The residents of Chapel Hill have a good chance in effecting this important change in their community. Curtis Brooks, the town's urban forester, stated that he is open to improving the IPM program and that going pesticide-free was “definitely a possibility."

They also have the benefit of local experts and examples. Just a few miles away in Raleigh is the Agricultural Resources Center and Pesticide Education Project that specializes in safe alternatives to pesticides and is willing to assist the town in meeting its goals. Also nearby is Carrboro, a town that stopped using herbicides years ago under the directorship of Chris Gerry, then-director of Carrboro's landscaping and grounds department.

The residents may be willing to compromise where there is an immediate threat to public health such as the presence of stinging insects near children, Vann indicated. If the town truly pursues a good IPM policy, however, it is likely that such a compromise will be unnecessary. Wasps, rodents and other pests can be effectively managed using exclusion and prevention practices instead of toxic chemicals.

TAKE ACTION: Ask your town to pass a local IPM policy or support pesticide-free parks and playgrounds and protect residents from exposure to hazardous pesticides. For more information, contact Beyond Pesticides.