Chesapeake PSR

Supporting Montgomery County on pesticides law

Toxics and HealthTimothy WhitehouseComment

Chesapeake PSR is one of nine groups that filed an amicus brief in support of Montgomery County’s Healthy Lawns Act (52-14). The lawn pesticides law, intended to protect children, pets, wildlife and the environment from pesticide use, is facing a legal challenge from the pesticide industry group Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE). The plaintiffs, including local chemical lawn care companies and a few individuals, allege that state law preempts Montgomery County’s local ordinance. Maryland, however, is one of seven states that has not explicitly preempted local authority to restrict pesticides more stringently than the state.

The Montgomery County Council passed the Healthy Lawns Act by a vote of 6-3 in 2015. The Act restricts the use of cosmetic toxic pesticides on public and private land. Acceptable pesticides are those permitted for use in organic production, or that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified as “minimum risk pesticides” under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Section 25(b).

Chesapeake PSR supported the passage of the Healthy Lawns Act. Although pesticides have benefits, exposure to certain pesticides can have serious adverse health effects on humans. These effects can range from simple irritation of the skin and eyes to nervous system disorders, immune system problems and certain cancers. Children are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticide exposure because their brains, nervous systems and organs, including their livers and kidneys, are still developing after birth; they spend more time on the ground or near the ground; they take more breaths per minute; they have more skin surface relative to their body weight; and they put their hands in and around their mouths and noses more often than adults.

The Healthy Lawns Act is consistent with the policy position of the American Academy of Pediatrics on pesticide exposure, which states, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity. Acute poisoning risks are clear, and understanding of chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.

A decision in the case is expected this year.

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