ENVIRONMENT • BY DARLENE REYES
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.