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  You are here:  ProgramsPublic Policy InitiativesMaine Board of Pesticides Control ReportsBPC – June 2002   
 Maine BPC Reports – June 2002 Minimize


Legislators React to Pesticides Sales Report
Public Hearings on School Pesticide Rule



Legislators React to Pesticides Sales Report


At a meeting on June 4, 2002, seven members of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture discussed the new pesticides sales data report with representatives of the Board of Pesticides Control.

BPC executive director Bob Batteese introduced the report by commenting: "We always knew [pesticides sales] was a high number, but I don’t think we yet know how high it is." He indicated that it was still not possible to revise the reports to focus on use by different sectors, because of the "illogical and incomplete reporting system." The BPC will be working during the next months on recommendations for improving the reporting system. He also said that there was a question whether you "can use the sales reports to measure reduced reliance [on pesticides]" because the reports "don’t address reduced risk," they address quantities, "but not toxicity and risk."

In response to that point, Sharon Tisher of MOFGA, which had long spearheaded the drive for better data reporting, commented that getting a handle on quantities sold and used in Maine was an "essential first step" to assessing risk. She pointed out that in the new retail sales report, the second and third top sellers (Chlorothalonil, 777,000 pounds active ingredient sold in 2000; and Mancozeb, 514,000 pounds) are classified as carcinogens by the EPA, and the eighth top seller, 2,4-D (48,000 pounds), has been associated with increased risk of cancer for exposed humans in epidemiological studies.

Each of these chemicals, in a comparison chart prepared by the BPC and submitted to the legislators, shows dramatic increases in sales compared with previous, 1995 and 1997, estimates: Chlorothalonil more than doubled, Mancozeb tripled, 2,4-D almost quadrupled. She also pointed out that another pesticide among the top ten best sellers, Atrazine, is the herbicide reported to have caused male frogs to grow female sex organs at very low levels by a research team at the University of California at Berkeley, and is likely to be reclassified by the EPA as a hormone disrupter.

Tisher pointed out that reducing Maine’s reliance on all four of these chemicals should be a "worst first" focus of the new Integrated Pest Management Council, created by legislation in the last session. She then inquired as to the status of the Council. Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Ned Porter replied that the Department had had "one meeting" since the legislation was enacted to discuss potential "pools of likely people" for appointments to the Council, and that "things will come together in the fall."

Representative Linda Rogers McKee (D-Wayne) commented that the new report "at least seems to demystify the common myth that there’s a greater problem with homeowner use than agriculture and forestry." (The report estimated the amount of pesticides – according to wholesale sales reports – that were resold to homeowners, using data from New York State, which has identified products most often used by homeowners. The cumulative quantity of those products – 129,000 pounds active ingredient – is relatively insignificant in relation to total wholesale sales of 3.87 million pounds. This does not, however, include commercial applications by lawn care companies). Batteese was asked whether they can break down use by commercial lawn care companies. BPC staffer Gary Fish replied that, according to his analysis of BPC records of wholesale and commercial use of lawn, ornamental and home vegetable gardening materials, the total product (active ingredient plus inerts and other materials) used in 2000 was estimated to be 1.8 million pounds. The quantity in 1999 was 1.6 million pounds.

Still, comments at the meeting sought to shift concern from agriculture to the homeowner. BPC chairman Vaughan Holyoke commented that the board was concerned because "homeowner use is not based on increased need, but on the increased ability of [lawn care] companies to sell. It sets them totally apart from the ag community where the chemicals are such a big part of your operation that you’re not going to use more than you need." Representative Walter Gooley (R-Farmington) queried, "What is the relevance of a high number? It’s a high number compared to what? It comes down to water quality, other aspects of safety…I know there are groups of people out there who are anti-spray. It would seem to me if we have a problem it is with the homeowner, if there’s a problem." Representative Clifton Foster (R-Gray) concurred: "I don’t have a question about use of pesticides – the question is rates of application and how often … Spraying a lawn every time you see a dandelion, four or five times a year, that’s a problem."

Bob Batteese commented that "doing this report is not something our Board has identified as a priority. Our priority for the year is developing standards for indoor pesticide use." BPC toxicologist LeBelle Hicks added, "We look at problems as they arise, rather than say let’s go after the top [pesticide] sales in the state." Representative Linda Rogers McKee commented that "Maine is one of the higher states for some types of cancers. Can we tell where these cancers are? Can we correlate them with pesticide use?" Hicks responded that the BPC staff had been asked twice by the Maine Cancer Registry to look at suspected cancer clusters, and had not found a correlation with pesticide use. She did not perceive that it would be "a driving force to correlate cancers with pesticide use" at the Board of Pesticides Control.

– Sharon Tisher

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Public Hearings on School Pesticide Rule

On June 26 and 27, the Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) held public hearings on a proposed rule regulating pesticide use in Maine schools. The rulemaking initiative was the result of a request by the Maine Toxics Action Coalition (MTAC). The BPC, in response to the request, convened a consensus rulemaking committee, with representation by applicators, school officials, MOFGA, MTAC, and the Toxics Action Center. The main provisions of the proposed rule are: 1) All elementary and secondary schools develop and utilize an Integrated Pest Management Plan to be updated annually; 2) All indoor pesticide applications be limited to baits, wall void, or crack and crevice treatments, unless pests threaten occupant health and safety; 3) All elementary and secondary schools notify parents and legal guardians that such a plan exists and is available upon request.

The committee could not reach consensus on the fourth element of the rule, regarding the form of parental notification of specific pesticide applications. The committee presented several options to the board for its determination. The board ultimately declined to follow the MTAC’s proposal to notify parents in writing in advance each time an application is made. Instead, the board voted to propose a draft rule allowing schools to choose their method of notification: either universal notification of every non-exempt pesticide application, or notification to parents who register annually on a school-maintained registry. Committee representatives from the Maine Toxics Action Center, MTAC, and MOFGA, however, supported universal notification to all parents every time an application is made.

Turnout was modest at the June 26 hearing in Lewiston on the BPC’s proposed rules on pesticide use in schools, but of the 13 people who testified, 11 supported the rule, and virtually all of them urged the board to mandate universal notification to all parents every time a pesticide is applied, instead of a registry system. The two opponents were both commercial pesticides applicators. No school official opposed the proposed rule; one official, Peter Brewitt, facilities manager of the Waynefleet School in Portland, the largest private day school north of Boston, strongly supported the rule. In response to testimony of the professional applicators arguing that school officials were ill equipped and too busy to attend to overseeing pesticide applications, Brewitt said that most schools had facilities managers like himself who were well positioned to take on these responsibilities. "From the school side I find the rule to be very workable," Brewitt noted.

Among the rule proponents, Shannon Ryan, speaking on behalf of the Maine Toxics Action Center, noted the links between pesticide exposure and lower IQ and cancer, and argued that good IPM can save money as it decreases purchases of costly chemicals and costs of hiring commercial applicators.

Ed Friedman, of Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, argued that "we’ve become a spray happy society" and are exposing ourselves to "multiple toxins through what seems to be a limitless number of pathways." Schools, Friedman argued, "should be an especially safe place, since most of our sensitive population spends two-thirds of their time there."

Kathleen McGee, of the MTAC, which had initiated the proposal for the rule, testified that although she was normally not a fan of stakeholder processes, as they were overly weighted toward industry, she had a largely favorable reaction to the process that led to this rule: "The people involved in the process were very good, very respectful, and I think we got an awful lot done." She argued, however, that to be "really health protective" the board should mandate notification every time a pesticide is applied. Everyone agrees, McGee noted, that education about pesticides is central, and giving universal notification is a "golden opportunity to educate." A University of Maryland study indicated that 80% of parents responding wanted to be notified each time a pesticide is applied: "If we can tell folks about picnics in school, they can be informed about pesticide applications."

Sharon Tisher of MOFGA argued that universal notification would focus school administrators’ attention on really enforcing the IPM requirements of the rule. "If school officials have to send out notice every time, they will really sit down and think – Is the problem sufficiently serious that we have to respond? Have we tried non-chemical means first? Have we used the least toxic chemical?" Tisher presented the board with the data [available at www.mofga.org] on increases in children’s’ cancer rates (rates in Maine are at least as high as the national rates), the links between pesticide exposure and cancer, and the latest data on high sales of known carcinogenic pesticides in Maine (see "New Pesticide Sales Data Report – Correction"). Tisher also summarized the results of the Maine Department of Agriculture’s 2000 survey on pesticides use in Maine schools, indicating that most pesticide applications are made illegally, by custodial staff not licensed to apply them, and 82% have no Integrated Pest Management plan in place. "Illegal, thoughtless, and dangerous ignorance about pesticides applications in our schools cannot be continued."

Heather Spalding and Will Sugg , testifying with their children, Rusty, 3 ½, and Elizabeth, 8 months, spoke strongly in favor of universal notification instead of a registry system. Will stated that Rusty has asthma, which is very scary, and he is worried about whether a registry system will be truly effective in advising parents who need to know about pesticide applications. "What if a family changes school systems in mid-year? Will they be added on to the registry in a timely way?" Heather stated that she understood that Rusty’s body burden for toxics had probably already been exceeded, and that she and Will are already doing everything they can to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

John Bennett, a pesticide applicator with Turf Care, Inc., disagreed with the rule and the BPC’s determination that it would not have a financial impact on school systems. He argued that it is a mistake to require school personnel to oversee pesticide applications in the school: "They have other tasks to perform, and IPM is not one of them." June Boston of Boston Competitive Athletic Fields opposed the idea of universal notification: "You don’t have to indoctrinate parents with pesticide manuals and anti-pesticide propaganda." She disagreed with the rule’s requirement that pesticide applications be done in accordance with U. Maine Cooperative Extension manuals: "They came out with some bad information in the past…They’re not turf specialists." And she argued that the rule was unfair in requiring that pesticide applications be made on weekends and vacations.

At the hearing the following day in Bangor, 17 people attended; five spoke in favor of the rule; two applicators, Dick Stevenson, Sr., and Dick Stevenson, Jr., of Modern Pest Control, did not oppose the rule as such, but opposed universal notification, and renewed the applicators’ arguments of the previous day that school officials were not equipped to oversee IPM programs. Stevenson, Sr., argued, as he had the previous day in Lewiston, that "we are all aware that we live longer because of pesticides."

Beedy Parker of Camden argued that parents were not aware that pesticides were being sprayed in schools, and argued in support of universal notification. She submitted a petition signed by 130 Rockport-area community members in support of the new rule. (Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport was the first Maine school system to adopt a program of Integrated Pest Management and universal parental notification.)

Leslie Poole of Belfast argued that the pesticide registry option was more work and less effective than universal notification: "Registries … only work properly if kept up-to-date. It is a reality that keeping records current is a weak link in any system. … It is easy to visualize a notification registry will not receive the proper attention it so deserves."

Will Everett of the Toxics Action Center agreed that a registry would be less effective and urged the board to reconsider an outright ban on cancer-causing pesticides in schools.

– Leslie Poole and Sharon Tisher

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