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Pesticides Harming the Bay

A new report released yesterday called on homeowners around the Chesapeake Bay to understand the consequences of common household pesticides and to reduce their use of the toxic substances. Here is the text of the release:

Pesticides: The Unaddressed Bay Polluter
Government and Public Urged to Tackle Chemical Threat

For release Thursday July 30, 2009

Baltimore MD, 07/30/2009 – Unaddressed pesticide pollution is contributing to the deterioration of the Chesapeake, according to a report issued today by the Pesticides and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Project, a diverse group of 100-plus scientists, public health experts and others working under the sponsorship of the Maryland Pesticide Network and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

The report urges government agencies at all levels to make reducing pesticide contamination a priority and to expand and accelerate research into the impact of this environmental threat to the Bay.

The report – Pesticides and the Maryland Chesapeake Bay Watershed: Understanding the Problem and Identifying Solutions to Reduce the Impact of Pesticides on the Watershed – is the product of two years of study. It emphasizes that while more data are needed, certain pesticides are known to have a potential adverse impact on Bay.

“The Chesapeake Bay is the largest and most biologically diverse estuary in America,” said Robert SanGeorge, Project Director. “More than 16 million people live around the watershed, creating multiple stressors on this fragile environment. Agricultural nutrient runoff is certainly a problem. But perhaps equally important is agricultural pesticide runoff and the pesticides that end up in the Bay as a result of residential lawn care and golf course maintenance, as well as everyday consumer products such as household cleansers and personal antibacterial products.”

The report recommends that farmers be encouraged to use “best management practices” to reduce the quantity of pesticides entering the watershed, and that governments provide incentives to help them transition from unsustainable agricultural methods to strategies that reduce or eliminate reliance on pesticides. Among other major recommendations, the report urges:
• Expansion of the U.S. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program beyond nutrient (fertilizer) management to include pesticides.
• Federal and state funding for research on the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides in the watershed and their suspected link to sex alteration in fish and other adverse effects.
• Adoption by the agricultural, commercial and residential sectors of integrated pest management and other methodologies such as natural lawn care, that focus on pest prevention and do not rely on pesticides.
• The commercial sector to be proactive in developing and offering healthier technologies, services and products.
• Education of consumers and farmers regarding the potential adverse health impacts of pesticide exposures.

The report reviews and cites a wide range of scientific research, including:
• Pesticides and their degradation or breakdown products have been widely detected at low levels in the watershed. While the most commonly detected pesticides were herbicides used on corn, soybean and small grain crops in agricultural regions, pesticides were also detected in streams and groundwater in urban areas within the watershed.
• Several pesticides in the Potomac River are suspected of causing the phenomenon of “intersex fish” – male fish with testicular oocytes.
• Studies on the pesticide atrazine, detected in 100% of the water samples taken at 60 different stations spread across five different Bay tributaries, have documented potential adverse effects to fish at exposure levels below those predicted by EPA.
• Bay microbial communities that may serve as a precursor to change in the overall health and viability of the Bay can be altered by exposure to Roundup and atrazine, widely used in the watershed.

The Pesticides and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Project was established more than two years ago by the Maryland Pesticide Network and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. The Project is the first working group in Maryland dedicated to reducing the occurrence and risks of pesticides in the Bay watershed, in order to protect water quality, aquatic life, wildlife and public health. Project participants include scientists, public health experts, waterkeepers, watermen, federal, state, and county government agency representatives, representatives of the agricultural and pest management industries, and environmental organizations.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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