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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 1, 2016

Gaithersburg, MD

Contact: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin  info@safegrowmontgomery.org T. 202 360-7166

Health and environmental coalition urges vigorous Montgomery County defense of historic lawn care pesticide law against industry lobbyist’s lawsuit.

Local health and environmental coalition Safe Grow Montgomery (www.safegrowmontgomery.org) calls on Montgomery County, MD to vigorously defend the pioneering Healthy Lawns Act, enacted in 2015 to protect the health of Montgomery County residents and workers.

Spokesperson Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin states, “Safe Grow Montgomery is alarmed about the national pesticide lobby’s involvement. The lawsuit filed by the pesticide industry group RISE (Responsible Industry for Sound Environment) and local partners seeks to overturn restrictions on non-essential lawn pesticide use supported by over 85% of Montgomery County residents. The suit hinges on a dubious claim of preemption by Maryland law that was already refuted by extensive analysis from the county legal staff at the time the Healthy Lawns Act, Bill 52-14, was passed by a County Council supermajority.”

“Montgomery County’s Healthy Lawns Act protects people’s health and provides safety for kids in our communities from toxic pesticide chemicals used unnecessarily on lawns and close to waterways. This Act protects our drinking water, waterways, and declining wildlife, especially bees and pollinators,” according to Ling Tan, pesticide chair of Sierra Club Maryland.“Preserving local jurisdiction’s democratic authority on pesticides laws is critical for communities throughout Maryland to be able to address public health concerns and unique environmental issues at the local level,” says Tan.

The Healthy Lawns Act restricts the use of non-essential pesticides on public Montgomery County property as well as private property. “Minimizing ongoing exposure to lawn care chemicals reduces the risk of a variety of illnesses including cancers, ADHD, and asthma,” says Julie Taddeo, Safe Grow Montgomery coalition co-founder. “Montgomery County residents and lawn care workers, especially vulnerable day laborers, are thankful for the County Council’s action, and now it’s essential that the county defend the Act,” says Taddeo.

“The Plaintiffs claim of ‘irreparable harm’ is purely hypothetical. It’s baseless,” says former Takoma Park, MD City Councilmember Seth Grimes. “The Healthy Lawns Act is very similar to Takoma Park restrictions that took full effect January 1, 2015. The City of Takoma Park has not received a single complaint of harm from an applicator or property owner,” according to Grimes.

Alan Cohen, president of BioLogical Pest Management, Inc., notes, “Any actual harm would be mitigated by the availability of proven alternative lawn care methods and outweighed by the very significant public health and environmental benefits of the Healthy Lawns Act. The impact on lawn care pesticide users is no different from the inconvenience to smokers and restaurants using trans fats and polystyrene service ware, also outweighed by the benefits of county action on those health and environmental threats.”

The Healthy Lawns Act for private property does not go into effect until 2018, allowing time for transition, training, and a public education program for both homeowners and landscapers over several years. The law went into effect for county-owned areas in July 2016. Montgomery County Parks has already transitioned all of its playgrounds to be pesticide-free, as well as transitioning multiple parks to be Pesticide-Free Parks and will be working on pesticide-free playing field demonstration sites. The Parks has also increased transparency by posting on its website in advance where pesticide would be applied.

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