A bill has been introduced in Montgomery County, MD, that would ban the use of “non-essential” pesticides on lawns, impose posting requirements on homeowners and other property owners who are treating their own lawns, and require the County to adopt an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.
Most states have pre-empted local governments from regulating pesticide use. Many local governments, however, have come to regulate use on public property such as schools and parks. Bill 52-14 in Montgomery County seeks to also regulate private property.
In an October 22, 2014 memo to fellow Council members, Council Vice President George Leventhal wrote: “I will be introducing legislation aimed at protecting the health of families—and especially children—from the unnecessary risks associated with the use of certain cosmetic pesticides that have been linked to a wide-range of diseases, and which provide no health benefits … The legislation that I am introducing incorporates feedback I received from proponents and opponents on the previous draft of the bill … The result is a bill that balances the rights of homeowners to maintain a beautiful lawn with the rights of residents who prefer to not be exposed to chemicals that have known health effects. I view this bill as a starting point in our discussion which can be tweaked along the way.”
Additionally, Leventhal had this to say specifically about the use of pesticides in lawn care and landscaping: “I want to preface my concerns by affirming the value of pesticides when they are used to protect public health, the environment, our food or our water supply, but when pesticides are used solely to improve the appearance of landscapes, they can cause more harm than good.”
The rationale behind the proposed ban. In an October 24 memo to Montgomery County Council members, legislative attorney Josh Hamlin wrote that the regulation of pesticides is the shared responsibility of federal, state and local governments. Additionally, Hamlin wrote that there is growing evidence of harmful effects associated with long-term use of or exposure to chemical pesticides.
“While there is not at present a consensus on causation, pesticide exposure has been linked to the following health problems: birth defects; numerous cancers, including non-Hodgkins lymphoma; Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders; immune system problems; and male infertility,” Hamlin wrote while citing numerous sources. “In addition to potential links to human health problems, neonicotinoids, a class of insecticide chemically related to nicotine, have been linked to population declines in bees, which serve an important function in pollination.”
Highlights of Bill 52-14. Require the posting of notice when a property owner applies a pesticide to an area of lawn more than 100 square feet, consistent with the notice requirements for when a landscaping business treats a lawn with a pesticide.
Require the Executive to designate a list of "non-essential" pesticides including:
- all pesticides classified as "Carcinogenic to Humans" or "Likely to Be Carcinogenic to Humans" by the U.S. EPA
- all pesticides classified by the U.S. EPA as "Restricted Use Products"
- all pesticides classified as "Class 9" pesticides by the Ontario, Canada, Ministry of the Environment
- all pesticides classified as "Category 1 Endocrine Disruptors" by the European Commission, and any other pesticides which the Executive determines are not critical to pest management in the County.
Generally prohibit the application of non-essential pesticides to lawns, with exceptions for noxious weed and invasive species control, agriculture and gardens and golf courses.
Require the Executive to conduct a public outreach and education campaign before and during the implementation of the Bill.
Generally prohibit the application of non-essential and neonicotinoid pesticides to County-owned property
Require the County to adopt an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program.
Take a look at the bill and supporting documents.
MARCH 31, 2014 — Safe Grow Montgomery—a coalition looking to advance legislation to protect against exposure to lawn care pesticides in public spaces throughout Montgomery County, MD—is now looking to meet with county council members who share this point of view.
Safe Grow Montgomery includes the coalition that brought the Safe Grow Act of 2013 to Takoma Park, MD, which generally restricts the use of cosmetic lawn pesticides on both private and public property throughout the Maryland city.
Safe Grow Montgomery is also encouraging Montgomery County residents and environmentalists to call and write their representatives about the importance of this legislation.