WATCH VIDEO HERE
Pesticide Free Public Parks – One Solution for Two Issues: Environmental Justice and the Climate Crisis
The use of toxic pesticides as a land management strategy on public land poses unnecessary health and environmental hazards. Land management choices should not endanger the health and well-being of our residents. Pesticides diminish the soil’s capacity to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and undermines the resiliency of canopy trees and understory vegetation. This webinar will review the health and environmental impacts of toxic pesticides, the inadequacy of regulation and look at how organic land management can help Philadelphia protect public health and the environment, meet land management goals and address the challenges of the climate crisis.
Presented by Toxic Free Philly member and ecological restorer Peg Shaw for Greenfest.
Greenfest Philly presented by Toyota Hybrids has been the Philadelphia-area's largest environmental festival for 15 years and has gone virtual in 2020.
Greenfest is full of sustainable content from September 12-27. For more info and a full schedule of events, go to https://cleanair.org/greenfest/.
Monarch Massacre: Hundreds of Monarch Butterflies Die After Aerial Mosquito Spraying in North Dakota
(Beyond Pesticides, September 2, 2020) It’s being called the Monarch Massacre—hundreds of monarch butterflies found dead after the Vector Control Department of Cass County, North Dakota aerially sprayed the county for mosquito control. This incident occurred during a moment in history that is seeing monarchs at the edge of extinction, with the number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico having declined 53% from last year, according to a count conducted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico. This tragedy happened as the nation and the world are experiencing an insect apocalypse and severe biodiversity decline, threatening the web of life. (See Study Predicts Demise of Insects within Decades if Pesticide Dependence Continues.)
While it is critical that steps be taken by communities nationwide to protect their local ecology, the incident generated a response from Cass County that claims that the insecticides used are “the lowest toxicity products on the market for mosquito control,” and points to the “monarch migration [that] is a sporadic event that unfortunately occurred during the latest adult mosquito control application.”
The County justifies the spraying because of nuisance mosquitoes and a finding in the “surrounding communities” of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus (WNv). In its Facebook statement, the County provides no monitoring data for WNv, does not disclose the threshold levels of insect borne disease, and fails to identify any risk to human and environmental health from its pesticide use. Instead, the agency refers to “lowest toxicity” products, claims made by chemical manufacturers but not verified by the independent scientific literature. In fact, the Vector Control Department’s website indicates that it is using the highly toxic insecticide permethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid linked to neurotoxicity and cancer. The Department states on its website:
“Cass County uses a number of synthetic pyrethroids to control adult mosquitoes. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemical insecticides that act in a similar manner to pyrethrins, which are derived from chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethroids are widely used for controlling various organisms including head lice. Permethrin, bifenthrin, and etofenprox, are synthetic pyrethroids commonly used in mosquito control programs to kill adult mosquitoes.” (See County website.)
Clearly the Department is downplaying the toxic nature of the chemicals that it uses. As stated, the pesticides being used by the county are synthetic pyrethroids not natural chemicals “derived from chrysanthemum flowers,” known as pyrethrums. Like other communities, Cass County mosquito management relies solely on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pesticide registration, which is disputed by independent science, and its own history of past pesticide use to justify continued pesticide use—without any reference to the controversy associated with synthetic pyrethroid use captured in the scientific literature. In an effort to reduce its characterization of hazards associated with the mosquito pesticides, the Department points to its use of ultra low volume (ULV) applications to downplay concerns about public exposure. To further justify widespread and indiscriminate use of synthetic pyrethroids for mosquito control, the county website cites other widespread uses of these pesticides, including “household insect foggers; ant and other insect sprays for the home; tick and flea sprays; flea dips & sprays; collars for cats and dogs; termite treatments; agricultural and livestock products; [and] for the treatment of head and body lice.”
Beyond Pesticides has noted that exposure to synthetic pyrethoids exacerbates the very threats associated with coronavirus. In effect, the use of these chemicals and public exposure increase the risk factors associated with Covid-19. (See Beyond Pesticides webpage and factsheet.)
Context is critical to the threat that monarchs are suffering. WWF’s monarch count found that monarchs occupied seven acres this winter, down from 15 acres last year. Reports indicate that 15 acres is a minimum threshold needed to prevent a collapse of the butterfly’s migration and possible extinction.
The threat to ecosystems from widespread spraying for mosquito management made national news when over two million bees killed after aerial mosquito spraying in South Carolina in 2016. Smaller wildlife kills often go unreported in the news.
Because monarchs are under threat, mosquito spraying adds considerably to the species decline. Recent research finds that western monarch milkweed habitat contains a “ubiquity of pesticides” that are likely contributing to the decline of the iconic species. The research, published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, provides a grim snapshot of a world awash in pesticides, and raises new questions about the U.S. regulatory process that continues to allow these toxic chemicals on to the market without adequate review and oversight. (See Milkweed in Western Monarch Habitat Found to be Completely Contaminated with Pesticides)
Tell Public Officials to Stop Mosquito Spraying and Adopt a Safe, Effective Mosquito Management Plan.
For information on ecological based mosquito management, see Beyond Pesticides Safer Mosquito Management page. Also, see Public Health Mosquito Management Strategy for Decision Makers and Communities.
On July 22, the New York State Legislature passed Senate 6502 / Assembly 732-B — a bill that would ban the use of all glyphosate-based herbicides on state properties. The bill now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature, which would make it law effective December 31, 2021. Beyond Pesticides considers this a hopeful development in the glyphosate “saga” and has urged the governor ought to sign it. Nevertheless, such piecemeal, locality-by-locality initiatives represent mere “drops” of protection in an ocean of toxic chemical pesticides to which the U.S. public is exposed. A far more effective, protective solution is the much-needed transition from chemical-intensive agriculture and other kinds of land management to organic systems that do not use toxic pesticides.
The bill — titled “An Act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to prohibiting the use of glyphosate on state property” — was introduced in 2019 and sponsored by New York State Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-New York) and State Senator José Serrano. It would add a new subdivision to section 12 of the state’s environmental conservation law, proscribing “any state department, agency, public benefit corporation or any pesticide applicator employed thereby as a contractor or subcontractor to apply glyphosate on state property.” More than 50,000 gallons of glyphosate-based herbicides were applied in public spaces across the entirety of the state, as reported in 2019 by Bronx.com.
Senator Serrano said of the bill, “Our parks, playgrounds and picnic areas are an oasis for New Yorkers, and have particularly become safe havens during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that we protect the health and safety of workers, families, and pets by proactively eliminating the use of potentially harmful chemicals like glyphosate in our public spaces, and by finding safe alternatives that will not risk the health of New Yorkers and our environment.”
Assembly Member Rosenthal commented: “Weeds are unsightly, but cancer is a killer, and we should not wait for a child or anyone to become sick to take action to protect them against a serious potential risk. Parents don’t want their children exposed to dangerous, toxic chemicals when they play in state parks, and groundskeepers and farm workers should not be exposed to potentially deadly chemicals while doing their job. Prohibiting the use of glyphosate on State property makes good sense: doing so will protect the public health and environment while shielding the State from millions of dollars in potential liability associated with its use. With safer alternatives available, there is no reason the State should be using a potential carcinogen to kill weeds.”
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide RoundupTM, Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) ubiquitous and widely used weed killer; it is very commonly used with Monsanto’s companion seeds for a variety of staple crops (e.g., soybeans, cotton, corn, canola, and others). These glyphosate-tolerant seeds are genetically engineered to be glyphosate tolerant; growers apply the herbicide and expect that it will kill weeds and not harm the crop. Roundup has been marketed as effective and safe, but, in reality, its use delivers human and ecosystem harms. Exposures to it threaten human health (including transgenerational impacts) and the health of numerous organisms. In addition, many target plants are developing resistance to the compound, making it increasingly ineffective as a weed killer, and resulting in ever-more-intensive pesticide use. Glyphosate was classified in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a probable human carcinogen.
Because children spend ample time in and on the kinds of turf that are often treated with glyphosate, and are more likely than adults to inhale, or ingest, or incur other kinds of exposures from grass and soil, Beyond Pesticides and many experts are very concerned about the use of this toxic chemical on such sites. Indeed, a study by the Center for Environmental Health found that children carry significantly higher levels of glyphosate in their bodies than do their parents.
Legislative and regulatory moves on the parts of states, counties, cities, and towns, like this bill in New York State: (1) happen in the context of, and in part because of, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) abdication of its protective responsibility to the public; (2) are often successfully challenged on the grounds that “higher level” pre-emption supersedes local laws and regulations; and (3) tackle the problem one chemical compound in one locality at a time — an approach that Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman has called “whack-a-mole.”
In addition, federal pesticide regulations in the Trump era have intentionally been made less robust and narrower in scope, and enforcement even of those has been anemic. That said, for decades, EPA has for decades aimed to “mitigate” risks rather than exercise the principle of Precaution in rulemaking. In July 2020, Beyond Pesticides described “the folly of the federal regulatory system’s attempts to ‘mitigate’ risks of pesticide exposure through small and piecemeal rules. Given the many thousands of chemical pesticides on the market, the complexity of trying to ensure ‘relative’ safety from them (especially considering potential synergistic interactions, as well as interactions with genetic and ‘lifestyle’ factors), and the heaps of cash that fund corporate interests . . . via lobbyists and trade associations, there is one conclusion. ‘Mitigation’ of pesticide risks is a nibble around the edges of a pervasive poison problem.” All of these failings have been made worse by an administration devoted to reducing or eliminating regulation on corporate actors.
There is no guarantee that Governor Cuomo will sign Senate 6502 / Assembly 732-B into law; in early 2020, he vetoed legislation to ban chlorpyrifos, and instead issued an immediate ban on aerial application, and proposed a regulatory phase-out to ban all uses by 2021. As the chief executive official of the state, he could — In addition to signing bills that come from the Legislature — take executive action to, for example, ban use of the most dangerous pesticides. Beyond Pesticides believes that the governor is not living up to his responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of New York State residents and environment from the dangers of chemical pesticides.
Beyond Pesticides reported on a bill for a local law proposed in 2019 in New York City Council (Intro 1524) that would prohibit city agencies from applying any chemically based pesticide to any property owned or leased by the City of New York. In 2019, Bronx.com reports, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation used upward of 500 gallons of glyphosate on 28,000+ acres of parks, playgrounds, beaches, athletic fields, recreational facilities, and other sites to “control” weeds. In its January 2020 hearing before the council’s Committee on Health, the bill was ultimately “laid over by committee” — a term that can mean a bill will be taken up the next legislative day, but which also can be a euphemism for “how a bill gets killed by ignoring it.”
In covering that bill, Beyond Pesticides wrote about the context in which New York City and other localities have increasingly turned to local action: “The issue is made more urgent, for New York City and for many, many municipalities and states, because most environmental regulation below the federal level in the U.S relies heavily on the determinations of EPA. Under the Trump administration, federal environmental regulation generally, and regulation of pesticides, in particular, have been dramatically weakened; this administration and its EPA clearly advantage agrochemical and other industry interests over the health of people and ecosystems. The consequent loss of public trust in federal agencies broadly, and EPA in particular, reinforce the need for localities to step up and protect local and regional residents and environments.” Currently, the bill is being held up by the Speaker’s office.
Along with the bill banning use of glyphosate on state property, the New York State Legislature passed S.5579a / A.5169, which, when signed, will mandate that written notices and signs informing the public of pesticide use in commercial and residential settings be printed in English, Spanish, and any other locally relevant languages. Senator Serrano commented, “It’s critical that all New Yorkers are aware of any warnings regarding pesticide use and application in their neighborhoods. . . . [This bill will ensure] that every resident can be adequately informed of pesticide use in their communities and take steps to ensure the health and safety of their loved ones.”
In light of the increasing evidence of the harm glyphosate can cause, some countries have stepped up restrictions or instituted bans on use of the compound, including Italy, Germany, France, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bermuda, Fiji, Luxembourg, and Austria. A growing number of jurisdictions in some countries have taken similar actions. In the U.S., counties, towns, and cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami, and many others in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Washington State, and more, have banned glyphosate applications on public lands.
Beyond Pesticides urges a federal ban on the use of glyphosate herbicides, and supports interim efforts of localities to protect their own communities — and those who work directly with these chemical — as New York State is beginning to do through this bill (S.6502 / A.732-B) that would prohibit glyphosate use on all state properties. It is unfortunate that, if signed, the law would not go into effect until the very last day of 2021, but Governor Cuomo should nevertheless immediately sign the bill into law.
The solution to the current federal “whack-a-mole” approach to mitigating the impacts of glyphosate (and all pesticide) use is a wholesale transition away from the chemical dousing of public lands, agricultural fields, and all manner of maintained turf. Organic approaches to pest and weed problems in agriculture and on other lands and landscapes (and in homes, gardens, buildings, et al.) do not involve toxic pesticides, and avoid the health and ecological damage they cause.
In addition to being genuinely protective of human health, organic management systems support biodiversity, improve soil health, sequester carbon (which helps mitigate the climate crisis), and safeguard surface- and groundwater quality. Beyond Pesticides encourages the public to contact federal, state, and local officials to demand real protection from toxic pesticides, perhaps beginning with a ban on the use of glyphosate on public lands, as New York is attempting to do. Find contact information for federal Representatives here, and for Senators here. Contact information for states and localities is typically available on state and city/town websites.
You’ve heard of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. It’s deemed a probable carcinogen, and has brought Bayer (Monsanto) to court time and time again over health harms to exposed individuals. You’ve also heard of dicamba, the drift-prone herbicide that has damaged millions of acres of crops over the last few years, for which farmers are just finally beginning to see justice.
And unfortunately, you’re about to become familiar with yet another harmful pesticide that has been quietly approved by EPA while the country is otherwise distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Isoxaflutole is here, and it’s bad.
Stuck on the treadmillIsoxaflutole, manufactured by the German agrichemical giant BASF, combines the worst of glyphosate and dicamba — it’s a weedkiller EPA itself has determined is likely to cause cancer and drift hundreds of feet from where it is applied.
The introduction of isoxaflutole is the next step in the endless cycle of destruction that is the pesticide treadmill, in which agrochemical companies market new chemical formulations, oftentimes stronger and more harmful, to combat weeds that have developed resistance to herbicides that have been used on them in the past.
An added bonus? Big Ag has found its replacement for glyphosate and dicamba, which are in hot water right now with lawsuit after lawsuit cropping up and plaintiffs actually winning in court.
One side silencedIt was likely an easy feat for BASF to slip this contentious chemical through EPA’s approval process. The agency had already indicated they would not be prioritizing public and environmental health when they announced they would be suspending enforcement of protective laws during the COVID-19 crisis, and it didn’t take long until we saw this terribly misguided policy in practice.
EPA approved isoxaflutole for use in 25 states by sidestepping the usual public input process for the decision. The herbicide’s registration was opened for public comment, but not listed in the federal register. Scientists shared that the press release EPA issued around the approval caught everyone off guard, as they were waiting for the comment period to open and never got word that it already had.
However, despite scientists being unaware the comment period was open, 54 comments were in the public register, and all of them were in praise of the Alite 27 herbicide product in which isoxaflutole is the active ingredient. Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity said:
"Clearly no one from the public health community knew about this because no one commented, yet there were all these industry comments, all these positive comments. Someone was tipped off that this docket had been opened. One side was able to comment, the other wasn't."
We’re watching you, EPAEPA did enact a few limitations in the approval of the herbicide, only allowing use in certain counties in 25 states, and barring use in Indiana and Illinois which are the two largest soybean-production states in the U.S. However, this is a chemical that should not have been approved at all, especially not in the midst of a pandemic without proper public input.
The last thing we need is another glyphosate, another dicamba, another toxic chemical that will wreak havoc on public health and farmer livelihoods. Especially right now, as we face the hardships of a global pandemic. PAN and our partners are continuing to keep a close eye on EPA’s movements in this moment.
Lawsuit Challenges TruGreen Chemical Lawn Care Company for Deceptive Safety Claims; Pesticide Applications Stopped by Some States During COVID-19 Crisis as Nonessential
(Beyond Pesticides, March 30, 2020) Last week, Beyond Pesticides sued TruGreen, the national chemical landscaping company, for misrepresenting the safety of the toxic chemicals that it uses to treat lawns. The case is Beyond Pesticides v. TruGreen (DC Superior Court, Case No. 2020CA001973B, March, 20, 2020). At the same time, the organization is urging all states to prohibit toxic chemical spraying in neighborhoods as non-essential and hazardous. Widespread exposure to lawn pesticides, which are immune system and respiratory toxicants, can elevate serious risk factors associated with COVID-19 (coronavirus).
As part of its marketing, TruGreen tells consumers that it offers environmentally friendly, sustainable lawn care services that use no chemicals that may cause cancer, allergic reactions, or other health or environmental harms. These claims, according to Beyond Pesticides’ complaint, are false and deceptive and illegal under the laws of the District of Columbia.
Advocates suggest that during the COVID-19 crisis the cessation of pesticide applications in neighborhoods across the U.S. will reduce involuntary exposure to chemicals that exacerbate respiratory and immune system illness and risk factors associated with coronavirus. Lawn care services have been determined by some states to be non-essential services and are prohibited from applying chemicals and delivering other lawn services. However, TruGreen has notified customers that it will continue to deliver services where permitted. Some companies are reporting cancellations. The litigation is intended to curtail use of hazardous pesticides long-term.
TruGreen makes several claims to consumers that, according to the lawsuit, the company knows to be false. As stated in the complaint, “TruGreen purports to offer environmentally friendly, sustainable lawn care services that use no chemicals that may cause cancer, allergic reactions, or other health or environmental harms.” Beyond Pesticides shows that these claims are false and deceptive.
Quoting from TruGreen’s information to consumers, identified as false and deceptive in the ligitation:
“We will not approve products containing known or probable human carcinogens as defined by the U.S. EPA, the National Toxicology Program, or the International Agency for Research in Cancer [IARC].”
“We do not approve products that are known skin sensitizers or that may produce allergic reactions.”
“We do not approve products known or thought likely to leach to groundwater when applied to lawns.”
In fact, TruGreen uses the weed killer glyphosate (Roundup), which is identified by IARC of the World Health Organization as probably carcinogenic. It uses a chlorophenoxy (Tri-Power) another weed killer whose label warns of “irreversible eye damage” and “allergic reactions.” Another hazardous pesticide identified in the lawsuit is triclorfon (Dylox), a neurotoxic organophosate insecticide.
As stated in the complaint, TruGreen’ s representations are intended to, and do, portray to consumers that its lawn care services are environmentally responsible and free from harmful chemicals.
“It’s time that chemical lawn care companies to stop deceiving the public and their customers with deceptive, misleading, and false information on the real hazards of the pesticide they use,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “These practices are particularly abhorrent, given the availability of organic compatible products that do not cause harm,” said Mr. Feldman.
Beyond Pesticides advocates for the adoption of organic land management, a systems approach that eliminates toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers and builds organic matter and soil biology as a means of cycling nutrients for plant health. This approach is successfully and economically used in managing lawns, parks, and playing fields across the country.
TruGreen’s false and misleading representations and omissions violate the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“DC CPPA”), D.C. Code§§ 28-3901, et seq. Beyond Pesticides is represented by the Richman Law Group in New York City.
A rising international force of rebel botanists armed with chalk has taken up street graffiti to highlight the names and importance of the diverse but downtrodden flora growing in the cracks of paths and walls in towns and cities across Europe.
The idea of naming wild plants wherever they go – which began in France – has gone viral, with people chalking and sharing their images on social media. More than 127,000 people have liked a photo of chalked-up tree names in a London suburb, while a video of botanist Boris Presseq of Toulouse Museum of Natural History chalking up names to highlight street flowers in the French city has had 7m views.
For more than a month, we've been sheltering in place, and you haven't heard much from us. But rest assured, we haven't stopped working....
Now more than ever, it’s important to have safe parks. Unprecedented numbers of people, of all ages, are seeking exercise, recreation, and access to natural beauty in our parks as we shelter in place to avoid spreading the Covid-19 virus. It is imperative that parks be free of toxins that can cause disease and compromise our immune systems. This means no harmful, synthetic pesticides should be applied at this time.
Our Resolution was about to be introduced on March 12, 2020, before City Council suspended it’s meetings.
The resolution urges the City of Philadelphia to immediately halt the purchase and use of any herbicides containing glyphosate and/or 2,4 D and to phase out the use of all other synthetic herbicides on all city owned and leased grounds over the next 18 months as these herbicides include known carcinogens and pose serious health risks to all those frequenting City parks, recreation centers, fields and other public spaces. It further urges the City to replace use of such herbicides with safe methods known as organic driven integrated pest management.
-We will continue to advocate for this goal and work with City Council to pass this Resolution.
-We secured a Pilot Park Program to transition two Philadelphia parks to organic land management practices in partnership with Non Toxic Neighborhoods. More details on this are forthcoming.
These are challenging times. Philadelphia residents are facing the risk of illness, food insecurity, unemployment, school closures and social isolation. At the same time, people are acting with great compassion. Still, the widespread use of harmful, synthetic pesticide use continues to be a public health crisis with long term ramifications, and we will continue to press for positive change.
The Black Institute Shows Higher Pesticide Use in Low-Income Neighborhoods in New York City, Calls for Pesticide Ban in Parks
Toxic pesticide use in New York City (NYC) parks would get the boot if a bill — Intro 1524 — being considered by the New York City Council passes. The bill “would ban all city agencies from spraying highly toxic pesticides, such as glyphosate (Roundup), and be the most far-reaching legislation to implement pesticide-free land practices in New York City parks,” according to a press release from its sponsors, New York City Council members Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera. The January 29 hearing on the bill in the council’s Committee on Health was preceded by release of an important report from The Black Institute: Poison Parks, which calls out the NYC Parks Department for, in particular, its continued use of glyphosate-based herbicides. It also notes, “Minority and low-income communities suffer from the use of this chemical and have become victims of environmental racism.”
NYC Council members Kallos and Rivera point out, in their joint press release, that glyphosate is the pesticide most intensively used by city agencies, and that, “The use of this pesticide poses a health risk for anyone who frequents city parks and playgrounds, as well as, city workers, including city parks employees who come into contact with glyphosate containing chemicals while spraying.” Council member Rivera said: “Our parks and open spaces are critical to our health when our communities have so few of them, so we have to make sure our city is pushing toward making them safer, greener, and more resilient. But no New Yorker should ever have to be exposed to toxic pesticides and it is long past time that our city ban these dangerous chemicals.” Member Kallos added, “Parks should be for playing, not pesticides. All families should be able to enjoy our city parks without having to worry that they are being exposed to toxic pesticides that could give them and their families cancer.”
The Poison Parks report puts its advocacy of nonchemical management of public land in an environmental justice, as well as a public health, context. It defines environmental racism as racial discrimination in: environmental policy-making; the enforcement of regulation and laws; the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste disposal and the siting of polluting industries; the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in communities of color; and the history of excluding people of color from mainstream environmental groups, decision-making boards, commission[s], and regulatory bodies. It also says that the Environmental Justice movement “has failed to address large-scale environmental practices, funded by big business, [that] disproportionately affect communities of color.”
The report includes data and maps that demonstrate the impacts of such environmental racism, including this from 2017–2018: “In Manhattan, Harlem was disproportionately sprayed in comparison with the rest of Manhattan. When analyzing this data, only locations that included parks, playgrounds, or recreation centers on park land were considered. Of the fifty parks or playgrounds sprayed in Manhattan in 2018, only 8 locations were not in Harlem. Forty-two locations were in Harlem where about 62% of the population is Black or Brown.” (Manhattan boasts more than 100 city parks.)
The Black Institute President Bertha Lewis said, in comments to the New York Daily News, “We understand the movement about climate and pollution going on. Too many times, the effect on black people and brown people and people of color is an afterthought.” The Bronx Chronicle also quotes Ms. Lewis: “Millions of New Yorkers rely on our public parks. Children, seniors, working people, immigrants, and their pets use them every day, but most don’t know the weed killer Roundup™ used in our parks is literally poisoning them. As our report shows, the neighborhoods affected are black and brown communities, such as Idlewild Park in Queens, where 90% of the residents are black. Average New Yorkers can’t just go to a park upstate or [on] Long Island to enjoy the outdoors. Public parks are the backyard for most New York City residents. We have banned plastic bags, we have banned trucks idling, and we have banned Styrofoam™. It is high time we ban the weed killer Roundup™.”
In the Executive Summary, the report cites the long-standing use of Roundup (made by Monsanto, now owned by Bayer AG) by the New York City Parks Department, and says, “Glyphosate is slowly poisoning state and city employees, children, the elderly, and pets,” adding that city employees who apply the herbicide are at the greatest risk of harm because of their consistent exposure. The report further decries NYC agencies’ argument that glyphosate herbicides such as Roundup cause no harm because they are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Poison Parks correctly notes that EPA permits toxic pesticides to remain registered (allowed for use) and on the market for years and years because its protocol is to review registrations only every 15 years. Roundup has been on the market since 1974. Its effects had “not been studied since 1993,” according to Poison Parks, which also says that in a 2018 review, EPA repeatedly found “something biased or inadequate in each case reporting a positive correlation between non-Hodgkin lymphoma and exposure to glyphosate. At the same time, any report with findings supporting that glyphosate does not cause cancer faced far less scrutiny.”
The report advocates for laws — “below” the federal level, given the state of EPA — that ban the use of glyphosate: “There are safe and healthy methods of reducing weeds without the use of toxic chemicals that threaten [New York] City’s most vulnerable. . . . Parks and recreation areas are timeless community magnets. They provide a place of relaxation and connection to others: a place for children to play, our pets to be free, and opportunity to escape the grind of city life, and need to be protected.” Poison Parks calls on New York City to:
The issue is made more urgent, for New York City and for many, many municipalities and states, because most environmental regulation below the federal level in the U.S relies heavily on the determinations of EPA. Under the Trump administration, federal environmental regulation generally, and regulation of pesticides, in particular, have been dramatically weakened; this administration and its EPA clearly advantage agrochemical and other industry interests over the health of people and ecosystems. The consequent loss of public trust in federal agencies broadly, and EPA in particular, reinforce the need for localities to step up and protect local and regional residents and environments.
The bill, which was first proposed in 2015 after Member Kallos heard from students at NYC Public School 290 about their worries about the toxicity and health impacts of pesticides on people and animals, would also establish a 75-foot protective buffer between any natural body of water and permitted pesticide use. On January 29, bill sponsors Kallos and Rivera, and 34 NYC Council colleagues sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, requesting that he put a moratorium on the use of toxic pesticides “until policies and procedures can be codified by the City Council and relevant agencies.”
Mr. Feldman’s comments at the Committee on Health hearing included: “With glyphosate being the poster child for unacceptable, hazardous pesticide use around our children and families, this legislation is critically needed to protect the residents and the environment of New York City, and advance the adoption of organic land management practices in parks and playing fields. . . . The approach to land care specified by this legislation identifies an allowed substance list to ensure that the products and practices used are compatible with the organic systems that protect people and local ecology. It is this approach to pesticide reform that will effectively stop the unnecessary use of hazardous pesticides applied in parks and public spaces throughout the city. While addressing urgent local concerns related to public and worker health and the environment, passage of this law in New York City will make an important contribution to reversing the escalating crises in biodiversity, including pollinator declines, and the climate crisis — which are exacerbated by petroleum-based, synthetic pesticides, the release of carbon into the environment, and the lost opportunity to sequester carbon in organic soil systems.”
(Beyond Pesticides, February 12, 2020) Corteva, a company spun-off from DowDupont, will stop producing chlorpyrifos by the end of this year as a result of declining sales. Despite the move being in the interest of public health, the company is earning little praise from health advocates for what amounts to simply a shrewd financial decision. As news articles on the announcement have noted, Corteva will continue to support Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration of chlorpyrifos, which allows generic manufacturers to continue to sell this brain-damaging chemical.
“Other people are going to continue to profit from harming children,” said Marisa Ordonia, an attorney with the group EarthJustice to Canada’s National Observer. “It is big that such a major player is saying no, we’re not going to do this any more. It’s a great signal that people don’t want brain-damaging pesticides on their food. But we’re going to continue to keep fighting to make sure children and farmworkers are protected.”
At odds is the difference between halting production of chlorpyrifos and cancelling its EPA registration. While Corteva has the ability to voluntarily stop producing its own product, EPA registration permits other generic manufacturers to continue to producing the product. And, over the years, there would be nothing to stop Corteva from reintroducing “new” chlorpyrifos products back onto the market.
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate class insecticide. Chemicals in this class are known to inhibit the proper nerve functioning by inactivating the enzyme acetylcholine esterase. Acute exposure to chlorpyrifos can result in numbness, tingling sensation, in-coordination, dizziness, vomiting, sweating, nausea, stomach cramps, headache, vision disturbances, muscle twitching, drowsiness, anxiety, slurred speech, depression, confusion and in extreme cases, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, convulsions, and death. The chemical’s use in agriculture means that the general public is regularly exposed to smaller doses of the chemical in food.
The most concerning impacts of chlorpyrifos are seen in low income, fenceline, minority, and farmworker communities, where working or living near chlorpyrifos-sprayed fields can mean high rates of chronic exposure.
A study from the Columbia Children’s Center for Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia University found that children exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos had mental development delays, attention problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder problems, and pervasive developmental disorder problems at three years of age. Concentrations of chlorpyrifos in umbilical cord blood also corresponded to a decrease in the psychomotor development and a decrease in the mental development in 3 year olds. A follow-up study in 2012 finds that children with high exposure levels of chlorpyrifos have changes to the brain, including enlargement of superior temporal, posterior middle temporal, and inferior postcentral gyri bilaterally, and enlarged superior frontal gyrus, gyrus rectus, cuneus, and precuneus along the mesial wall of the right hemisphere.
In 2016, EPA under the Trump administration reversed an impending ban on the chemical after, records reveal, then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt met privately with Dow Chemical’s CEO. Since that time, EPA and environmental groups have battled out the chemical’s use in the courts (see this previous Daily News for a timeline). In July 2019, the agency announced officially that it would permit continued uses of chlorpyrifos indefinitely.
While EPA continues to fail to meet its namesake charge of protection of the environment, states and countries around the world taking meaningful action. Two years ago, Hawaii became the first state to take action through a phase-out that completely eliminates all use of the chemical by 2022. Soon after California became the first state to eliminate use through the rulemaking process. In New York, a law passed by the state legislature implementing a ban prior to Hawaii’s was vetoed by Governor Cuomo (D) and shunted to a slower state rulemaking process. Meanwhile, the EU decided not to renew its registration for the chemical, permitting only a short grace period of 3 months for final storage, disposal and use.
The removal of Corteva (DowDupont) from the chlorpyrifos marketplace is indicative of a pattern within the current administration that puts profit at all cost above the health of the American people, and American children in particular, according to advocates. Decisions regarding public health should not be determined by the dictates of the marketplace, but by the sound science in states like NY, CA, and HI, the EU and other countries are following for the benefit of their residents. Help us send a message to EPA that science matters, and the agency must promote scientific integrity over corporate profits by signing your name today.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: Reuters, Canada’s National Observer
Use of Pesticides in Philadelphia Parks
In response to a Right to Know request, in June of 2019 Philadelphia Parks & Recreation provided the following information on their pesticide usage:
Proclypse or Prodiamine 65
Aquaneat (aquatic foliar) – alternates: Rodeo or AquaPro
Clean Slate – alternates: Transline or Stinger
Escort XP or Patriot
RoundUp - alternates: Ranger Pro or KleenUp
Basal bark or cut stump
Garlon 4 Ultra or Triclopyr 4
Captain XTR or Cutine Plus
Reward or Diquat SPC 2L
And the fungicide Zerotol 2.0
We have submitted a similar right to know request to the Philadelphia School District, and when they respond, we will post their response to this page.