FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Healthy Lawns Bill 52-14 Becomes Law: Montgomery County, Maryland is the First County in the Nation to Restrict the Non-essential Use of Lawn Pesticides

Contact:

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

GAITHERSBURG MD, October 19, 2015

Safe Grow Montgomery (www.safegrowmontgomery.org) is pleased that Healthy Lawns Bill 52-14 will become law on October 20, 2015. Montgomery County Council in Maryland voted 6-3 on Tuesday, October 6th to pass Bill 52-14, with a veto-proof majority. With over a million residents, Montgomery County is the largest jurisdiction to enact legislation restricting the non-essential use of pesticides for the protection of public health and the environment in the U.S.

Amendments were made to the original bill to address Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett’s concerns prior to the vote. Amended Bill 52-14 incorporated the Parks Department’s suggestions on parks and playing field management, and alleviated the Dept. of Environment’s concerns of administrative burden. Mr. Leggett refused to sign the bill despite acknowledging children’s health risks from lawn pesticides in his October 19th memo. He referenced potential lawsuits in his memo, which have been threatened by the Farm Bureau and pesticide and chemical turf care lobbying groups.

“Citing potential lawsuits as an excuse not to sign the bill cedes control to corporations of a community’s right to protect public health,” says attorney Chris Nidel, Rockville resident and supporter of Bill 52-14. Montgomery County staffs a legal department because lawsuits are a possibility with all legislation.

The bill is very popular among county homeowners and residents. More than 4,700 – 85 percent – of all letters and petition signatures received by the County Council supported the resolution. Over 40 environmental and health advocacy organizations and businesses joined with Safe Grow Montgomery to support and advocate for the bill.

“CASA de Maryland supports the further restrictions on the use of cosmetic lawn pesticides throughout Montgomery County. Reducing the use of cosmetic pesticides is a social justice issue: it will benefit those who have little to no say over what chemicals they and their families are exposed to on a regular basis,” states Alma Couverthie, Director of Welcome Centers and Education for CASA de Maryland.

Even though intense industry pressure continues, there is no evidence that the bill will harm landscape jobs. The demand for workers and applicators will continue with a transition to safe lawn care practices, including the use of safer organics-compatible EPA registered products allowed under the bill, and the permitted use of conventional pesticides for specific targeted uses. Many lawn care companies in Montgomery County, MD  are already equipped to offer these safer services. Bill 52-14 will grow jobs in the landscaping industry as has been proven in Canadian jurisdictions that enacted similar restrictions. It also presents opportunities for companies to be sustainable lawn care leaders for the Metropolitan area.

According to Bill 52-14 lead sponsor, Council President George Leventhal, this new law “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.”

According to Dr. Philip Landrigan, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Mount Sinai’s Children’s Environmental Health Center, children are especially vulnerable to the risks from exposure to lawn pesticides: “Acute exposure to pesticides can lead to asthma exacerbations, cough, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, eye irritation, and headaches. Additionally, pesticide exposure early in life is associated with increased risk of certain cancers, birth defects, reproductive defects, asthma, and cognitive and behavioral problems.”

Council President Leventhal, and the other co-sponsors, Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro, Hans Riemer, and Nancy Floreen, recognized the need to act where Federal and State regulations have failed to fully protect human and environmental health. Under this new law, the health of the county’s residents, the local water, soil and air quality, pets, and pollinators will be protected from non-essential use of harmful lawn pesticides, herbicides.

The law will take effect on county-owned lawns on July, 1 2016, and on private lawns on Jan. 1 2018.

 

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