The Montgomery County Council passed Bill 52-14 on Tuesday Oct. 6 to ban the use of EPA-registered pesticides in lawn care for most public places.
“Today’s action is another step in the ongoing effort to make Montgomery County the healthiest, safest county in the country,” Council president George Leventhal said in a press release. Leventhal was among six councilmembers who voted in favor of the bill, along with Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro, Hans Riemer, Nancy Floreen, and Marc Elrich. Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Craig Rice and Sidney Katz voted against the bill.
However, the bill, passed by a 6 to 3 vote, has been met with controversy. One of the most notable amendments of the bill is the Department of Parks’ approval to use pesticides on public playing fields. A plan that would lead to maintaining fields without pesticides is required by 2020.
Ling Tan is a volunteer for Safe Grow Montgomery. “As a parent, I’m deeply saddened the Park’s playing fields will still have pesticides on them for the next five years or more … states like New York and Connecticut have already switched to pesticide-free playing fields to protect the long-term health of their youths. Montgomery County families deserve these protections too,” she explains.
Supporters of the bill point to the link between pesticide ingredients to human cancers. Glyphosate, commonly used on the mulch area of playgrounds in Montgomery County, has been linked by the World Health Organization (WHO) to human cancers, and 2,4-D, commonly used on lawns throughout Montgomery County, is the second ingredient in the toxic herbicide, Agent Orange. Agent Orange was famously used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, and exposure to it has been recognized to cause pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not consider endocrine effects of pesticides on developing bodies, like that of young children and teens. Federal EPA regulations only consider the effects of a single pesticide ingredient at a time rather than the effects caused by multiple interacting ingredients or the effects of low-dose, long-term exposure of pesticides to people and children.
Opponents of the bill claim it will hurt homeowners as well as lawn care businesses. According to a news release by the Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), a national association representing workers involved with pesticide and fertilizer products, over 600 letters in opposition to the bill were sent to the council.
More than 4,700 of all letters and petition signatures received by the County Council supported the bill. According to a statement from Safe Grow Montgomery, the resident-led coalition of local organizations and businesses that advocated for the passage of Healthy Lawns Bill 52-14, there is little evidence the bill will harm jobs in the landscaping industry because there will still be a demand for workers while the county transitions to safer lawn care.
Article by MoCo Student Community Writer Lillian Andemicael of Rockville High School