The Environmental League of Massachusetts Pesticide Press Release
The Environmental League of Massachusetts Pesticide Press Release Print E-mail

Groups Urge Pesticide Use Reduction Through New Report "Poisoning Ourselves: Residential Pesticide Use in Massachusetts"
Thursday, June 16, 2005 Contact: Megan Amundson, ELM 617-742-2553

The Environmental League of Massachusetts, in collaboration with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, released a new report on residential pesticide use in Massachusetts, titled "Poisoning Ourselves: Residential Pesticide Use in Massachusetts," on Monday, June 20th at 9:30 a.m. at the State House, room 222. The release of this report coincides with a public hearing on two important pieces of pesticides legislation pending in the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, taking place later in the day in Sunderland.

Pesticides are one of the few toxins we intentionally subject ourselves to. They are dangerous chemicals used widely throughout the United States on farms, gardens, lawns, athletic fields, municipal lands, in schools, and inside our homes. While many people associate pesticide use with agriculture, the US Fish and Wildlife Service reports that homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops.

"Many people don't realize how toxic pesticides for lawn and garden use are, and the government is partially to blame for that," stated Megan Amundson, Policy Analyst for the Environmental League of Massachusetts. "Labels on pesticides don't adequately inform the user of the health consequences of using a pesticide. As a result, people become very comfortable with pesticide use despite the breadth of studies that explain connections between pesticide exposure and very serious health problems."

A growing body of research has linked pesticide exposure to cancers, developmental disorders, and birth defects, and more news surfaces regularly about the hidden dangers of many of the most commonly used pesticides. Children are most susceptible to pesticide exposure because they are still growing and because of the activities they participate in. Concern for children's health in Massachusetts sparked the passage of the Children and Families Protection Act, which attempted to protect children from pesticides at school, but has not been fully implemented.

"There is a scientific consensus on the link between health effects and exposure to many commonly used lawn and garden pesticides," Susan Roll, the Associate Executive Director for Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, explained. "2,4-D and organophosphates are good examples of pesticides or a group of pesticides for which there is extensive research that links them to serious health threats. And yet, they remain some of the most used pesticides on lawns and gardens."

Despite the clear links between pesticide exposure and health, lawn and garden pesticide use in Massachusetts is on the rise from the 1990s in both the money spent on pesticides and the amount of pesticides purchased. The lawn and garden sector is a growing proportion of the pesticide market. And some of the most toxic pesticides are the most commonly used in home and garden settings: 2,4-D is the most commonly used pesticide for home and garden and a number of organophosphates make the top 10 most used home and garden pesticides.

"This report sounds three alarms," said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. "One alarm is for the public, letting people know that most pesticides are poisonous and there are safer alternatives for healthy lawns. One alarm is for our lawmakers, who need to use their power to better protect the public. And the third alarm is for the companies who make toxic pesticides and market them for lawn use," she said. "We can respond to these alarms by passing the three bills recommended in this report, two of which are being heard by the legislature today, and all of which will better protect the public from toxic pesticides."

The report includes a number of recommendations both for the legislature and the Romney administration. Those recommendations include the passage of three pesticide related bills. One bill, House Bill 1287 sponsored by Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), expands the current Children and Families Protection Act to prohibit the use of pesticides that are known carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxics in schools, day care facilities, hospitals, health care centers, on municipal and state property, and for nonagricultural applications by licensed pesticide applicators. Senate Bill 778, sponsored by Senator Pam Resor (D-Marlborough), and House Bill 1317, sponsored by Representative James Marzilli (D-Arlington), remove the tax exemption for pesticides. Senate Bill 553, sponsored by Senator Steven Tolman (D-Brighton), and House Bill 1286, sponsored by Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), requires the use of safer alternatives for 10 toxic chemicals, including 2,4-D and organophosphates, where safer alternatives exist.

Another recommendation encourages increased funding for the Department of Agricultural Resources and the Department of Public Health so that the agencies can implement existing pesticide laws. The last recommendation is for Governor Romney to issue an Executive Order that would require current laws to be fully enforced.

"Our government has the responsibility to protect us, especially our most vulnerable populations. Now is the time to take responsibility," added Megan Amundson.

Speakers at the event included Megan Amundson, Policy Analyst, Environmental League of Massachusetts; Janet Domenitz, Executive Director, MASSPIRG; Susan Roll, Associate Executive Director, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition; Ruthann Rudel, Senior Environmental Toxicologist, Silent Spring Institute; and Linda Segal, Wayland Selectman and Board Member of the Toxics Action Center.

The report is available in print and at www.EnvironmentalLeague.org.

The Environmental League of Massachusetts is an independent, nonprofit, citizens' organization dedicated to protecting the Massachusetts environment by bringing about strong, responsible public policies. ELM has been carrying out a program of policy development, legislative advocacy, "watchdog" work on the implementation of environmental laws, and public education for over 100 years.

The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is a coalition of over 140 state organizations, including churches, labor organizations, environmental groups, medical professionals, public health professionals, educators and disease focused organizations. AHT is a citizen initiative in Massachusetts to establish new government policies to prevent harm to our health from toxic hazards.

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