Many of the common lawn care practices in Rochester are in conflict with health concerns regarding pesticide exposure, especially to pregnant women, children and pets. My concern for lawn chemical usage in Rochester was significantly elevated when a strong and dense chemical smell entered our suburban home on August 14, 2012, at 9:30 am. I saw a lawn service hosing our neighbor’s lawn with Trimec (EPA Registration Number 10404-43) an herbicide mixture that consisted of 2,4-D, mecoprop-p, and dicamba. The chemical smell did not dissipate for some time.
My toddler and I spend a significant amount of time with play groups that meet in many of Rochester’s public parks. One such play group met at 10:00 am at Kutzky Park. My toddler and I arrived at around 10:15 am on September 27, 2012, and we were playing there for a few minutes when I saw a Rochester Parks and Recreation Department employee with a tub of chemicals on his back spraying with a wand. He informed me he was spot spraying around the perimeter of the park and the play equipment with Roundup (EPA Registration Number 72112-4). The conditions were not such that would allow for the chemical to dry quickly. Children could have been exposed as they played as there was no signage designating where the chemical had been applied.
The Rochester Parks and Recreation Department also applies Q4 Plus Turf Herbicide for Grassy and Broadleaf Weeds (EPA Registration Number 2217-930) or TZONE Broadleaf Herbicide for Tough Weeds (EPA Registration Number 2217-920) to the sports fields and a limited number of parks. According to the respective Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) both of these products contain 2,4-D.
The Minnesota Department of Health advises women to “[a]void pesticide use (i.e., insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, miticides, and fungicides) if pregnant. Stay away from areas recently sprayed with insecticides.” Babies in utero and during the first years of life are especially sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides. The American Academy of Pediatrics states, "Prenatal and early childhood exposure to pesticides is associated with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems."
2,4-D is not a benign chemical. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Children should be deterred from playing in areas where 2,4-D or other chlorophenol based herbicides or pesticides have been sprayed. Children are lower to the ground than adults and may be exposed because they often get dirt, grass, and other outdoor material on their skin and in their mouths.” I worry about the potential health impact of this chemical by itself and also when it is combined with others.
As the City of Rochester focuses on developing as a destination medical community, it should set a positive example with its chemical application policies. There are practical problems with keeping children and pets away from pesticides in the suburbs. Pesticide concerns make it difficult for my family to enjoy our backyard during the spring and summer because at any time, a lawn service employee wearing a mask, goggles, and boots, could be spraying a neighboring yard.
Increased common sense pesticide regulations are necessary in the suburban setting, including at minimum, mandatory posting around the entire property, mandatory 48-hour written pre-notification to neighbors, and bans on their use in areas frequented by children, such as daycares and preschools, among others. Similarly, the City of Rochester, Minnesota should follow the lead of pesticide policies in Canada and cities in the United States by adopting pesticide free management policies on publicly managed spaces.
Minnesota Department of Health, Reproductive and Birth Outcomes, https://apps.health.state.mn.us/mndata/reproductive
American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP Makes Recommendations to Reduce Children's Exposure to Pesticides, (November 26, 2012) http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Makes-Recommendations-to-Reduce-Children%27s-Exposure-to-Pesticides.aspx
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Centers for Disease Control, Clorophenals Public Health Statement, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp107-c1.pdf