Daily News Archive
From August 19, 2005

New Report Calls for Reduction of Lawn Pesticides in Massachusetts
(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2005)
The Environmental League of Massachusetts, in collaboration with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, released a new report this summer that tracks an increase in residential lawn and garden pesticide use in Massachusetts, titled "Poisoning Ourselves: Residential Pesticide Use in Massachusetts.”

"Many people don't realize how toxic pesticides for lawn and garden use are, and the government is partially to blame for that," stated Megan Amundson, co-author of the report. "Labels on pesticides don't adequately inform the user of the health consequences of using a pesticide. As a result, people become very comfortable with pesticide use despite the breadth of studies that explain connections between pesticide exposure and very serious health problems."

According to the report, both the amount of money spent by residents and the amount of pesticides used on lawns and gardens in Massachusetts has jumped after two decades of almost level spending and use. In 2001, Massachusetts residents used 23 percent more pesticides on their lawns and gardens than they used in 1994.

A growing body of research has linked pesticide exposure to cancers, developmental disorders, and birth defects, and more news surfaces regularly about the hidden dangers of many of the most commonly used pesticides. Children are most susceptible to pesticide exposure because of their developing organ systems and behavioral activities that increase their exposure. Concern for children's health in Massachusetts sparked the passage of the Children and Families Protection Act, which attempted to protect children from pesticides at school, but has not been fully implemented.

"There is a scientific consensus on the link between health effects and exposure to many commonly used lawn and garden pesticides," explained Susan Roll, the Associate Executive Director for Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. "2,4-D and organophosphates are good examples of pesticides or a group of pesticides for which there is extensive research that links them to serious health threats. And yet, they remain some of the most used pesticides on lawns and gardens."

Despite the clear links between pesticide exposure and health, lawn and garden pesticide use in Massachusetts is on the rise from the 1990s in both the money spent on pesticides and the amount of pesticides purchased. The lawn and garden sector is a growing proportion of the pesticide market. And some of the most toxic pesticides are the most commonly used in home and garden settings: 2,4-D is the most commonly used pesticide for home and garden and a number of organophosphates make the top 10 most used home and garden pesticides.

"This report sounds three alarms," said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. "One alarm is for the public, letting people know that most pesticides are poisonous and there are safer alternatives for healthy lawns. One alarm is for our lawmakers, who need to use their power to better protect the public. And the third alarm is for the companies who make toxic pesticides and market them for lawn use," she said. "We can respond to these alarms by passing the three bills recommended in this report, two of which are being heard by the legislature today, and all of which will better protect the public from toxic pesticides."

The report supports the passage of three pesticide related bills currently introduced in the Massachusetts state legislature. One bill, (HB 1287) expands the current Children and Families Protection Act in MA to prohibit the use of specific toxic pesticides in schools, day care facilities, hospitals, health care centers, on municipal and state property, and by non-agricultural commercial pesticide applicators. The other (SB 778) remove a tax exemption for pesticides, and the third (SB 553) requires the use of safer alternatives where they exist for ten toxic chemicals, including 2,4-D.

The report is available in print and at www.EnvironmentalLeague.org.

TAKE ACTION: Encourage schools, neighbors, park managers and others to stop their dependence on toxic lawn chemicals and adopt sustainable land care practices that will not adversely effect humans and wildlife. Join the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns or visit the Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscape Issue page.