by Matt Prindiville, NRCM Clean Production Project Director
Senator Sherman, Representative Edgecomb and members of the Committee. My name is Matt Prindiville, and I live in Rockland. NRCM supports LD 837, and we thank Representative Nelson for bringing it to the attention of the Committee. We believe it’s critical that we as a society transition away from the unnecessary use of hazardous chemicals, especially for uses that have the potential to expose vulnerable populations, such as pregnant mothers, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and our children.
To get right to it, it seems that you are confronted with two questions: 1) Do the cosmetic benefits of using herbicides in schools clearly outweigh the risks associated with these chemicals for humans and the environment? and 2) Are there alternatives to using toxic chemicals that can provide the same cosmetic benefits?
Regarding the first question, a number of institutions and government jurisdictions in North America have already said no, the benefits do not outweigh the risks, including the State of Maine. In 2006, Governor Baldacci signed an Executive Order restricting the cosmetic use of herbicides in all state-owned buildings in Maine. Most prominently, the governments of Ontario and Quebec, representing 2/3 of Canada’s population, have restricted the sale and use of all cosmetic herbicides. Additionally, Connecticut and New York have already taken the step that you’re considering today. And countless colleges, commercial buildings and private institutions have done the same, not to the mention the towns of Camden, Ogunquit and Brunswick with regards to public spaces.
They have done this because of many reasons, but fundamentally, these actions were taken to protect the health of adults and children, working and playing in environments where herbicides had previously been used for cosmetic purposes. This trend has been driven by research demonstrating the impacts to human health and the environment from the cosmetic and other uses of pesticides. Much of the concern has focused on the carcinogenicity of many of these chemicals and/or their ability to interfere with the human endocrine system, the body’s hormonal messaging system which governs many of the body’s core functions such as growth, brain development, metabolism and reproductive ability. In 2004, the Ontario College of Family Physicians released the most comprehensive study ever done in Canada on the chronic effects of pesticide exposure at home, in the garden and at work. The link between common household pesticides and fetal defects, neurological damage and the most deadly cancers was found to be strong enough that prior to the 2008 ban, family doctors in Ontario urged citizens to avoid these chemicals in any form.
After review of over 12,000 published medical papers, “The review found consistent evidence of the health risks to patients with exposure to pesticides.” The study named brain cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and leukemia among many other illnesses linked to pesticide exposure. The researchers also found that children are far more vulnerable to the effects of pesticides than adults because their bodies are growing, they have a greater skin surface in proportion to their size than adults, they ingest more food for their size than adults and they often have less-developed systems to excrete chemicals.  These are among the primary reasons why the Canadian Cancer Society is also one of the most forceful advocates for the banning of the cosmetic use of herbicides.
I’ve cited additional research from EPA on cancer and pesticides, which is footnoted in my testimony, but I wanted to briefly touch on endocrine disruption. There has been a growing body of evidence suggesting that many pesticides and other common chemicals used in products in our homes are interfering with the body’s hormonal messaging system.
Natural hormones are the principal agents governing brain development, physical growth and a healthy reproductive system. The Endocrine Society – “the premier professional organization for basic and clinical endocrine research and the treatment of endocrine disorders” – released a position paper in June of 2009 calling for the increased study and regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals. According to the Endocrine Society, what is especially alarming about endocrine disruptors is their ability to alter normal biological activity at extremely low levels, in the parts per billion range. Not surprisingly, these are also the levels at which many natural human hormones create their effects.
In 2009, EPA ordered several pesticides manufacturers to screen many of their products for endocrine disruption. Among the first seven pesticides that were screened under the agency’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) was 2,4-D, the most common pesticide for urban use, widely used to combat the scourge that is known as the “dandelion.” Here’s what EPA has to say about 2,4-D “At high concentrations it affects the central nervous system (CNS) in humans, with symptoms including stiffness of arms and legs, incoordination, lethargy, anorexia, stupor, and coma. 2,4-D is also an irritant to the gastrointestinal tract and skin in humans. Chronic (long-term) oral exposure to 2,4-D results in effects on the blood, liver, and kidneys in animals. Several human studies have suggested an association between exposure to 2,4-D (and other herbicides) and an increased incidence of tumor formation.” In other words, nasty stuff, and we just started to scratch the surface with regards to its potential as an endocrine disruptor.
To get to the second question, about feasible alternatives to create beautiful school grounds, lawns and gardens without herbicides, one only has to go on a local garden tour where many of the gardens and lawns are managed without herbicides. You can also check out safelawns.org where you’ll find all kinds of pictures from lawns and gardens all over the US that are managed without herbicides. These spaces are not only functional, beautiful and weed-free, they’re also completely safe places for all of us to recreate.
I also have some personal experience in this area. About 12 years ago, when I was studying political and environmental science at the University of Maine at Farmington, I worked several summers as part of organic gardening crew, based out of Cushing. The gardens and lawns that I worked on are among the most beautiful in the area, and there wasn’t a single drop of herbicide used on any of them. I learned how to create a beautiful lawn by using basic mowing and watering techniques that allow the grass clippings to compost and provide valuable nutrients to the soil while maintaining adequate levels of water for that luscious green look. It’s clear that we don’t need to use toxic chemicals to create beautiful lawns and gardens.
I know one of the key questions is: shouldn’t we just wait for the feds to act? To that, I would pose another question – Do you know when the United States banned lead for use in paint? It was 1978. Do you know what year the first country in the world banned lead in paint? The country was France, and the year was 1909 and most of Europe followed shortly thereafter. In the United States, the legacy of seven decades of inaction, much of it directly caused by the paint, oil and chemical industries’ influence in Congress, led to millions and millions of children being lead poisoned and the systematic dumbing down of the American people.
Given the choice of your kids or grandkids playing on an athletic field that’s managed using natural methods or one that’s been treated with toxic chemicals, which one would you choose?
Thank you very much for your time and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
 Executive Order on Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products and Services. Governor John Elias Baldacci. www.maine.gov/dep/oc/safechem/attach%20a.1_c.pdf
 “Given the wide range of commonly used home and garden products associated with health effects, the College’s overall message to patients is to avoid exposure to all pesticides whenever and wherever possible.” (News Release). the full report can be found at http://www.ocfp.on.ca/English/OCFP/Communications/CurrentIssues/Pesticides/>/a>
 “Cosmetic Use of Pesticides.” Canadian Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.ca/canada-wide/prevention/specific%20environmental%20contaminants/pesticides/cosmetic%20use%20of%20pesticides.aspx?sc_lang=en
 “America’s Children and the Environment: A First View of Available Measures.” US EPA: December 2000. http://yosemite.epa.gov/OCHP/OCHPWEB.nsf/content/index.htm
53% rise in brain and other nervous system cancers
37% rise in soft tissue cancer
32% rise in kidney and renal pelvis cancers 18% rise in acute lymphoid leukemia
During the same period, incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for teenagers aged 15-19 rose by 128%. While many government experts have traditionally been reluctant to definitively tie pesticide use to the increases in rates of childhood (or other) cancers, the December, 2000 EPA report on children’s health makes that positive connection: “evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that environmental contaminants such as pesticides and certain chemicals, in addition to radiation, may contribute to an increased frequency of some childhood cancers… Children’s direct exposures to such chemicals may also contribute to cancer. (Page 52)”
 “Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Position Statement.” Endocrine Society. June 2009. www.endo-society.org/advocacy/policy/upload/Endocrine-Disrupting-Chemicals-Position-Statement.pdf
 Colburn, Dr. Theo. Our Stolen Future:1996 Excerpt – www.mindfully.org/Pesticide/Hormone-Chemical-Messengers.htm