Pesticide Debate Crowds New Hampshire Hearing
CONCORD, NH. — Defiantly declaring “we are the true environmentalists” to the nodding approval of dozens of lawn care professionals, the co-founder of the Lawn Dawg company help lead of chorus of pleas not to study the issue of banning pesticides in New Hampshire.
With homeowners, organic lawn care professionals, doctors and other advocates supporting Bill 1456 that would study the effect of a pesticide ban on public and private property, Jim Campanella was among many lawn chemical applicators who told New Hampshire legislators they saw no problems with current laws regarding pesticides.
In a hearing that had been scheduled for an hour, the three-plus hours in the tightly packed room — with lines out the door — were filled with contentious and impassioned arguments on both sides. Time and time again, the 16 councilors in attendance asked, “Why not at least study this issue?”
It is unclear at this hour on when the committee will vote on the issue, but the bill’s sponsor, Suzanne Smith, could clearly see she had opened up a can of worms.
“This is my first bill and who knew it would turn out like this?” she said, after appearing on New Hampshire Public Television’s program New Hampshire Outlook with yours truly — which will air Friday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14 at 9:30 a.m. and Monday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. “I just don’t understand why the chemical industry is so afraid to even have a study about the issue. If they don’t have anything to hide, why wouldn’t they welcome a study to clear the air.”
The issue, of course, is that the chemical industry fears loss of revenue and that the study would ultimately lead to an outright ban on pesticides. Many of us who spoke in favor of the bill do favor a ban, but only on a specific group of pesticides — what the Canadian government refers to as “cosmetic” pesticides used to kill dandelions, plantain, crabgrass and other weeds in the lawn and garden.
Here is a snapshot of two of the issues raised:
THE SCOPE OF THE BAN — Many pesticide applicators brought up the infestations of bed bugs that have been making headlines across the U.S. They also talked about West Nile Virus and other illnesses associated with mosquitoes, or infestations of termites. The reality is that the intent of Smith’s bill is simply to ban lawn and garden pesticides, much like what Canada has already done in most cases. Exceptions to the bans are routinely made in Canada in the case of severe infestations.
EPA APPROVAL — Many of the applicators spoke about EPA approval of their products, suggesting that such approval by the Environmental Protection Agency was proof that their products are safe when used as directed. The reality is that EPA approval is not a finding of safety, but rather it is a risk-benefit analysis of health and environmental risks weighed against economic benefits. In most cases, those risks and benefits are borne by differing members of society. In other words, the chemical companies and applicators get the money and the homeowners, ponds, lakes, rivers, oceans etc. bear the risks.
I’ll have more on this tomorrow. Stay tuned . . .