The public’s interest in avoiding potentially harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers has increased after a string of negative pesticide news stories. The public, advocates, decision-makers and funders will more likely support the managers of natural resources, athletic fields and other large greenspaces that express commitment to sustainable landscaping.
“If you’re not passionate about sustainable landscaping, then it’s going to be hard to get any interest whether that’s from your community or a funder to promote or support your project,” said Ryan Anderson, IPM Institute of North America’s Community IPM Manager and the leader of Midwest Grows Green (MGG).
To earn public interest and support, Anderson recommends tracking current events, attending landscape management training sessions and refining or developing sustainable landscaping action plans, mission statements, policies and/or visions.
“Looking at recent pollinator health and glyphosate issues, MGG is expressing that this is an urgent issue that we need to address today, not 20 years down the line,” Anderson said. “That urgency statement helps get the interest of funders and communities.”
The Village uses no pesticides and only uses approved organic treatments and methods on all our properties. We were one of the earliest municipalities to pass an ordinance prohibiting the use of lawn care chemicals on Village owned property and we continue to encourage other communities to do the same.” -- Mayor Barrett Pederson of Franklin Park
The more I learn about natural lawn care, the more I believe that it is a highly beneficial and holistic program for the turf and soil. Natural lawn care does more than a synthetic product does for both the growing process and the environment in general.” -- Kristi Solberg, Assistant Superintendent of Buildings & Grounds, Park Ridge Park District, IL
“Whether it’s fertilizing, growing grass, growing flowers or growing golf course greens. Usually when you look around there’s a more environmentally friendly way to do that, than the standard.” -- Carl Gorra, Parks Operations Supervisor, Naperville Park District, IL
“I see two benefits of IPM as most important: the support of natural ecosystems and the decreased exposure to harmful chemicals within the community” -- Sue Crothers, Head of River Forest Parks Foundation
There is an extensive body of testing on the fate and impact required for each pesticide before it enters the market. However, it’s impossible to know every potential impact that a pesticide may incur and exposure to pesticides should be limited to account for these unknown impacts. Specific studies detailing the exposure and potential impacts of various pesticides are outlined below.
Pound-for-pound, children consume and inhale more food, air and water than adults, increasing their risk to pesticide exposure. In addition, children like to explore their environment with their hands and mouths putting them in close contact with pesticide residues. This pesticide exposure poses risks to childhood psychomotor development and can lead to difficulties concentrating, higher levels of ADHD, asthma and certain childhood cancers.
Ongoing scientific studies continue to detect pesticides and their breakdown products in Midwestern waterways, including the insecticide Imidacloprid. Pesticide and fertilizer pollution not only poses a threat to humans who use this water for cleaning, consumption and recreation, but to the entire aquatic environment. Even at low concentrations, pesticides can harm many lower-order water-dwelling organisms decreasing an important food-source for their predators, or the toxins become more concentrated through trophic levels, harming higher order predators like humans.
Treating crops with pesticides can unintentionally damage yields by harming bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators that contribute billions of dollars to the US economy. Lawn and landscape management products containing neonicotinoid insecticides such as imidacloprid, commonly used for grub control and ornamental plant care, and synthetic pyrethroids, commonly used for mosquito control, pose the most risk to pollinators.
Pesticides harm and can cause prolonged, event fatal, health issues to birds, amphibians, fish and mammals. Lawn pesticides come in frequent contact with urban wildlife and beloved pets, specifically dogs, increasing the risk of such diseases as bladder cancer and canine lymphoma.
Pesticides can degrade the quality of soil over time by killing or harming beneficial microbes and detrivores, like earthworms, which cycle nutrients, aerate the soil, breakdown organic matter and control diseases and pests.
Chronic use of most pesticides leads to pest resistance to the chemistry, rendering the input useless.
Manufacturing, transport and application of pesticides and fertilizers produce greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
Public opinion of pesticides continues to sour after recent litigation for glyphosate and dicamba, the passing of pesticide bans such as the EU's ban on neonicotinoids and a renewed interest in eating organic food. These changes in public opinion may be viewed as a threat to authorities that do not wish to change and and opportunity for those that do.