Exemptions cushion blow of ban on pesticides, herbicides

Updated Aug 4, 2017
Council President George Leventhal is hopeful that Bill 52-14 will help improve the lives of Montgomery County’s citizens and its environment. Photo: mymcmedia.orgCouncil President George Leventhal is hopeful that Bill 52-14 will help improve the lives of Montgomery County’s citizens and its environment.
Photo: mymcmedia.org

In an action thought to be the first of its kind, Montgomery County, Maryland, has effectively banned the nonessential use of pesticides on both commercial and private property. The measure was approved in a 6-3 vote.

The county’s new regulation makes concessions for the use of pesticides to control invasive or noxious species and it also does not apply to gardens. County officials say the purpose of the rule is to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides to lessen their impact on the environment and human health.

“Countless studies have linked pesticides to a wide range of health conditions in children and adults, and since the bill was introduced one year ago, I have received hundreds of reports from constituents of children and pets experiencing adverse effects from the application of pesticides,” Council President George Leventhal told mymcmedia.

Advocates of the ban also have pointed to a report published in 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics about the correlation between exposure to pesticides and cancer.

In a county of more than 1 million residents, 85 percent of all letters and petitions received supported the proposal, officials say.

According to Safe Grow Montgomery, the bill will prevent the use of toxic pesticides on county-owned property as of July 1, 2016, while their use on private property will cease Jan. 1, 2018. Golf courses, playing fields, trees/shrubs and agriculture are all exempt from the ban.

The pesticides that are allowed to be used must be EPA registered and their active ingredients approved by the National Organics Standards Board. Other pesticides can be used if its ingredients do not require EPA registration.

Safe Grow Montgomery insists the new regulation won’t harm landscaping companies; in fact, the group says the rule will actually grow the industry based on evidence seen in Canadian jurisdictions where pesticide restrictions are already in place.

“I respect the rights of property owners to maintain their own property, but they do not have a right to inflict harm on their neighbors,” Leventhal said. “Residents will still be free to hire any lawn-care professional to treat their law or manage their own lawn care, but they can do so now with the confidence that their family will be better protected.”

While the Montgomery County Council is convinced it’s helping its community, both environmentally and physically, the National Association of Landscape Professionals isn’t so sure.

“There is no evidence that the pesticide ban passed today by the Montgomery County Council will yield tangible benefits for the community,” NALP said in a statement on the new regulation.

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