Every year Americans use more than 80 million pounds of pesticides and other chemicals on their lawns and gardens. Some studies show that only 5% of pesticides reach target weeds, the rest is absorbed in the ground, washed into surrounding water sources, and can be tracked into homes. In Connecticut much of these chemicals are carried by storm run off into rivers and then into Long Island Sound. This has caused hypoxia, or the depletion of oxygen in the water, in Long Island Sound which has begun to decline since environmental regulations have been implemented in Connecticut. When these chemicals are not flushed into the sound, they seep into the soil and can enter the water table potentially contaminating well water. When pesticides are applied to residential lawns, children, pets and parents are exposed to harmful chemicals which have been linked to a large variety of health issues including cancers, birth defects, and challenges to child development.
Many Connecticut towns have adopted bans or restrictions on pesticide use on lawns and gardens. The state of Connecticut has already adopted a ban on the use of pesticides on school lawns, forcing landscapers to learn organic land care techniques for public school grounds. Before the ban was in effect, Branford, Connecticut stopped using pesticides on all twenty-four of the town’s fields. The town collects the residents’ leaves to create compost and mulch, which greatly reduced the need for pesticides or fertilizers because the compost created healthier soils which produced healthier grass. Connecticut is now looking to extend a pesticide ban to high schools. Plainfield enacted a resolution in support of voluntary non-use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on lawns and gardens by the citizens of Plainfield. The town went a step further and declared Paderewski Park pesticide and synthetic fertilizer free as a pilot project to test out organic turf management. Essex has adopted a similar resolution urging voluntary refrain from the use of chemical fertilizers and lawn pesticides. Essex and Plainfield’s resolutions both cite potential water pollution, environmental degradation, significant health threats to children, pets, and unborn children, water conservation and soil health in their resolutions. The town of Roxbury also put in place regulations on pesticide and fertilizer applications within 50 feet of a water course.
New York has joined sixteen other states in banning the sale of artificial lawn fertilizers because of high phosphorus content. Phosphorous has a significant negative impact in lakes and reservoirs and about 50% of phosphorous found in storm runoff comes from lawn fertilizer. New York also was the second state, after Connecticut, to ban pesticides in schoolyards and on playing fields.
As organic lawn care becomes more main stream and there are a greater variety of resources and options, there will hopefully be more pesticide bans in Connecticut. As a state with a high population density and neighboring a water body which is highly sensitive to run off pollution, we have the responsibility to continue to reduce the use of unnecessary chemicals. Each town must already use some form of pesticide free land care for their schools, this has made for an easy transition to town-wide voluntary reductions of pesticide use.
To read the resolutions visit: http://www.riversalliance.org/ModelOrdinances/pesticidesherbicides.htm#plainville1
For more information on the health of Long Island Sound, visit: http://longislandsoundstudy.net/2010/12/sound-health-2010/
For more information and resources on organic land care: www.organiclandcare.net