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Maryland County Bans Lawn Pesticides

A recent vote by the Montgomery County Council to restrict the use of pesticides on both public and private property has made the Maryland county the first major U.S. county to pass such sweeping legislation. (However, it's worth noting that such legislation has become prevalent in Canada in the last decade.)

The legislation will limit the use of pesticides on public and private turf and recreation areas. However, it does provide exceptions for gardens, invasive species and human health issues. And golf courses are also exempt.

Bill 52-14 was passed in a 6-3 vote. A few amendments to the bill gave private owners an extra year before the ban on using pesticides on lawns goes into effect (now January 1, 2018) and it also allows the Department of Parks to use pesticides on playing fields as part of an IPM program until 2020. The bill restricts the use of certain pesticides on both county-owned and private property, and it also places restrictions for applications on playgrounds, mulch areas and other areas of recreation. County property will see the bill going into effect earlier, on July 1, 2016.

Both proponents and opponents have engaged in a heated debate about the bill since it was introduced. While Safe Grow Montgomery is elated by the news, the landscape industry is expressing concerns.

RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), an association of specialty pesticide and fertilizer producers, says they attempted to work with Montgomery residents and businesses to create a shared solution, and they issued a statement opposing the passage of the existing bill.

Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs for RISE, said, “Lawmakers have spent nearly two years on a bill that provides no benefit to the citizens of Montgomery County. This bill is so extreme that it’s unenforceable. It’s also unnecessary. It puts the community’s health and workers’ livelihoods at risk. The council is going against federal and state regulatory guidance on what is safe and necessary for pest control and also goes against the opinion of the National Cancer Institute, which says the scientific evidence to support such a ban is not conclusive.”

The National Association of Landscape Professionals also issued a media statement saying, “There is no evidence that the pesticide ban passed today by the Montgomery County Council will yield tangible benefits for the community. Scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency, credentialed professionals, among the tops in their field, have long guided the appropriate use of lawn care products and other materials. As such, the professional landscape industry continues to rely on the results of the science and research provided leading authorities in their service to customers.”

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