ENVIRONMENT: Toxic lawns initiative tangled up in vines


Lawn pesticides may do more damage than just killing weeds.

Catherine Cummings and Julie Taddeo started the Safe Growth Initiative as concerned citizens. They were surprised at how many Takoma Park residents apply cosmetic pesticides to their lawns, given Takoma Park’s commitment to sustainability.

“In response to our petition, we collected over 200 signatures from area residents, and pledges of support from local businesses…Parents from all parts of Takoma Park are rallying for this ban, because lawn pesticides are just one more thing parents of small children have to worry about.  Pet owners are generally enthusiastic,” said Taddeo.

The reason most people express concern is that common lawn pesticides contain dicamba, 2,4-D, and Glyphosate. Various studies have linked these chemicals to cancer, although the EPA has refuted some findings, and are known endocrine disruptors.

“A ban would give people a lot more freedom to play outside their apartments, to grow pesticide-free food, walk their dogs without worry… Lawn pesticides are [also] understood to trigger respiratory attacks, and that’s very sad if you live next door to someone who has their lawn sprayed regularly, so we advocate for people with respiratory issues with this proposed ban,” said Taddeo.

Cummings contacted Beyond Pesticides and reached out to other Montgomery County residents who were trying to get such harmful products banned, or restricted, on public and private property.

Some Takoma Park councilmembers, like Tim Male, Seth Grimes, and Kay Daniels- Cohen, have expressed support for, or at least interest in, the initiative.

“I support the Safe Growth Initiative because of the detrimental health and environmental costs,” Grimes stated. He says if the law is passed, the city will try and educate residents on alternatives to cosmetic pesticides. The idea being that instead of telling residents what they should not do, the city will instead provide “positive guidance on what they should do,” according to Grimes.

However, Cummings and Taddeo could not receive full support from everyone they reached out to.

Cummings and Taddeo wrote a letter to Friends of Sligo Creek asking for its support, since runoff of pesticides tends to contaminate local bodies of water like the Sligo Creek. However, FOSC were not completely on board with endorsing the Safe Growth Initiative because while it fears contamination, it is also worries about invasive plants.

“In all cases, the chemicals help restore or maintain a healthy habitat by getting rid of highly noxious alien weeds… the FOSC Board believes that these uses are legitimate and necessary,” wrote Michael Wilpers, president of Friends of Sligo Creek, in a letter to the Safe Growth Initiative.

FOSC did say it would consider educating residents on the potential damage cause by the careless use of pesticide chemicals.

The Takoma Park City Council is expected to further discuss the issue some time in September.

7 Comments on "ENVIRONMENT: Toxic lawns initiative tangled up in vines"

  1. I’m very surprised at FOSC Board’s response. Manual removal of invasive plants should always be the first choice and use of pesticide as a LAST resort — after all other means have been tried and failed. Perhaps the FOSC board is not as familiar as they should be on the latest research on long-term impacts of Glyphosate causing birth defects (released this month).

  2. Are they definitely using glyphosate along there? Links to the correspondence would be helpful

  3. I doubt that anyone is spraying Glyphosate on their lawn, since it would kill it on contact.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Susan. I was curious about what’s used near Sligo Creek

  5. I oppose the ordinance, Takoma Park Safe Grow Zone Initiative. I would like to bring to your attention the facts of the benefits of ornamental turfgrass and landscape culture. Well managed turfgrass has many benefits including erosion control, it cleans the air, filters runoff, is a safe place for sports and activity (fewer injuries than synthetic turf), sediment control, creates oxygen, increases property value, and has a cooling effect. Our trees, shrubs and landscape plantings provide beauty and shade to our urban environment. The proper management of turfgrass requires the judicious use of fertilizers and pest control. Trees and shrubs fall victim to a myriad of disease and insect problems that require the use of fungicides and insecticides. Our members are trained and certified lawn and landscape specialists. We know how to diagnose and treat lawn and landscape problems while reducing the amount of pesticides needed.

    In addition, contrary to the statements of the ordinance and the studies and comments you cited therein, there is no documented, peer reviewed scientific data that the activity of using general use pesticide products is in anyway linked to increased cancer or to health problems. The only one that is cited in the comments that has any validity is the NIH study. The NIH study cites two pesticides; paraquat and rotenone as being linked to Parkinsons Disease. While there are no official statistics from Maryland, I personally do not know of a lawn care company that uses these products. In personal conversation with my sales representative from John Deere Landscapes, he relates that he has not sold a bottle of either in his entire carreer (20 years). To back that up, in New Jersey in 2010, the pesticide survey for pesticide use on lawn and landscapes reported only 13lbs ai. of paraquat and no rotenone was used by lawn care companies and landscapers in New Jersey in 2010. And, they are not on your banned list. Yet, your statement says that in general ALL pesticides are linked to Parkinsons Disease according to the NIH study. Rotenone is actually a botanical and is on the list of products that can be used in organic farming. So, if you are eating organic vegetables, you are probably ingesting rotenone. This is just one example of the inconsistencies in the testimony that is prompting your action and there are many more.

    As a lawn care operator and certified pesticide applicator that provides a quality and essential service to homeowners in your area, I urge you to do more research before blindly banning pesticide use in your city. If you would like professional advice, I would be more than happy to volunteer and supply more professional knowledge to your process. Call me if I can be of service. I am a Master Gardener in Charles County and I help the new MGs by giving a pesticide class every year. I am sure you would find my input valuable.

    Richard LaNore
    Director, Maryland Turfgrass Council
    Owner, MRW Lawns
    Work # 301-870-3411
    Email rickl27928@rocketmail.com

  6. Neighbor on Sligo | June 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm |

    This law is another proposed regulation that in addition to imposing another fine-based burden on property owners, possibly rendering Takoma Park exempt from any county help in pest control, and impossible to enforce, will do little to improve our environment. Our lawn is home to everything from insects to deer to feral cats. The Roundup we sprayed four years ago to kill poison ivy did absolutely nothing to harm them. We also have bees, butterflies, moths, lady bugs, even cockroaches courtesy of the apartments next door. This is another nanny law proposed based on emotion rather than science with no city support. Moreover, it opens the door to ban everything the uuber parents suppose might harm their children–none of whom should be on anyone’s property without permission.

  7. This article is almost a year old. It’s doubtful anyone is reading the more recent comments. I suggest you leave comments on more recent articles on the subject if you want people to see them.

    For example: http://tpssvoice.com/2013/05/31/granolapark-safe-grow-votes-and-bikes/

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