Thursday, October 8, 2015

Montgomery County Bans Roundup and 2, 4-D Use on Lawns

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council by a vote of 6 to 3 passed Bill 52-14 a new law banning the ornamental use of pesticides including Roundup and 2,4 D as well as hundreds of others. Though the law goes into effect in January 1, 2016 most of the requirements have an effective date of January 2018.

Bill 52-14 restricts the application of pesticides on County-owned and private lawns, requires the county to conduct a public outreach and education campaign before and during the implementation, and requires the County to adopt an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan. IPM is a method of pest control which minimizes the use of chemical pesticides by focusing on pest identification and monitoring and uses a combination of biological, physical/mechanical and, when necessary, chemical management tools. The law will also require the posting of notice when a property owner applies a pesticide to an area of lawn more than 100 square feet, so even postage stamp size yards will come under the law.

The law includes all pesticides classified as "Carcinogenic to Humans" or "Likely to Be Carcinogenic to Humans" by the U.S. EPA; all pesticides classified by the U.S. EPA as "Restricted Use Products;" all pesticides classified as "Class 9" pesticides by the Ontario, Canada, Ministry of the Environment; all pesticides classified as "Category 1 Endocrine Disruptors" by the European Commission; and any other pesticides that are determined not to be critical to pest management in the County. Pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides, used to simply prevent blemishes and other imperfections on private and public lands are banned.

Violation of this law will be a Class C Misdemeanor and will depend on the public reporting neighbors to the authorities. The law is modeled on laws in Canada where the use of pesticides for ornamental use have been banned town by town, Provence by Provence beginning with the 2009 Ontario ban of pesticides use for cosmetic purposes on lawns, vegetable and ornamental gardens, patios, driveways, cemeteries, and in parks and school yards. The Ontario law contains no exceptions for pest infestations (insects, fungi or weeds) in these areas, as lower risk pesticides, biopesticides and alternatives to pesticides exist. More than 250 pesticide products are banned for sale and over 95 pesticide ingredients are banned for cosmetic uses under their regulation, the Class 9 pesticides cited in the Maryland law.

A huge body of relational evidence exists on the possible role of pesticide exposures in the elevated incidence of human diseases such as cancers, Alzheimer, Parkinson, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, asthma, bronchitis, infertility, birth defects, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, diabetes, and obesity. Most of the disorders are induced by insecticides and herbicides most notably organophosphorus, organochlorines, phenoxyacetic acids, and triazine compounds.  A wide range of chemicals are used to treat everything from pests to mold in household gardens. One of those is 2, 4-D, used by cereal crop producers and commonly found in household weed killers. It has been the subject of an extensive study by Health Canada which determined that, when used properly, it is safe. Organizations like the Sierra Club and the Canadian Cancer Society, which strongly support a ban on cosmetic use of pesticides and herbicides, disagree. However, no specific research linking the currently used ornamental pesticides to disease in humans was found.

The only documented study to find a disease link to 2,4-D was done in the United States, a 1991 National Cancer Institute study examined dogs whose owners' lawns were treated with 2,4-D four or more times per year. The study found those dogs had double the risk of developing canine malignant lymphoma than dogs whose owners do not use the herbicide.

In addition, this past year, glyphosate (N-phosphonomethylglycine), the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup and the most popular herbicide in use today in the United States has been labeled a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, which is the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization. Americans spray an estimated 180-185 million pounds of the weed killer, on their yards and farms every year. All the acute toxicity tests have found that glyphosate is nearly nontoxic to mammals; however, there have been for some time a minority of scientists and experts who believes that glyphosate may be much more toxic than is claimed and push for studying potential impacts to human health from low level constant exposure to glyphosate. Glyphosate is subject to the Montgomery law.

The Canadian and Montgomery County bans on cosmetic use of herbicides and pesticides are intended to protect children based on the belief that children may be more at risk of developing health problems from pesticides because:

• Their activities lead to more exposure e.g., playing in the grass, putting their hands or toys in their mouths.
• They are closer to the ground and breathe in higher amounts of pesticides.
• Proportional to their weight, they breathe in more air and consume more food and drink than do adults.
• Their immature metabolic systems cannot break down toxins as effectively as adults.
• Their bodies are rapidly growing and developing and potentially impacted more strongly by endocrine disruptor effects.

While I certainly do not know if a ban on ornamental use of pesticides will prevent disease a in children and cancers in the adult population, I wonder what the downside of reducing use would be. For full disclosure purposes I have the third to worst lawn in my neighborhood, I apply no chemicals to my lawn and never water. However, I do hope to improve the lawn by aerating and over seeding annually and applying my compost. So far, not so good despite soil analysis that showed decent soil composition and years of effort. Embrace the cheerful beauty of dandelions.
My lawn- at least it's green!


  1. Hi Elizabeth. I passed this along to our county extension agent and his comment was, "I understand the implied reasoning, but I would like to know more about the public comments and experts that helped drive the vote against the products." If you have any of that info, I'd appreciate it if you would pass it along. Thanks. Sandra

  2. Since when was nitrogen considered a pesticide? Was that a typo?