Friday, August 12, 2005
BOH weighs in on pesticide use
[The Mosquito asked the Board of Health to share their thoughts on pesticide use, and their comments are printed below.]
As concern over the increasing use of pesticides has grown, the Board of Health has taken a more active role in educating Carlisle residents about the potentially adverse health and environmental effects of chemical pesticides and the need to use safer, environmentally friendly alternatives. The Board believes that there are many facts about pesticides that residents may not have considered: pesticides are intended to be toxic and include insecticides and herbicides; some pesticides are neurotoxic, others are carcinogenic and others can act as endocrine disrupters; certain populations, such as children, may be more vulnerable; health organizations advocate pesticide-use reduction; exposure can be both direct (physical contact) and indirect (pets carrying pesticides into the home, runoff from a pesticide application); many homeowners are unaware of the health risks of the products they or their contractors are using, or that they are categorized as pesticides; there are safer products that can be just as effective.
In 2003 the Board sponsored the Carlisle Pesticide Awareness Group, a local volunteer organization. In the spring of 2004 a "Spring Alert" letter was mailed to every household focusing on the need to reduce the use of pesticides in the community. Two seminars on organic lawn care were also offered, in the fall of 2004 and in the spring of 2005. In 2004 the Board of Health partnered with the towns of Westford, Acton, Chelmsford, Concord and Littleton under a regional Toxics Use Reduction Network (TURN) grant to build public awareness about the unnecessary overuse of pesticides and to examine how each community manages its public land. In response to the state's "Act Protecting Children and their Families from Harmful Pesticides," intended to prevent unnecessary exposure of children to chemical pesticides, the Board of Health requested and received confirmation from the Recreation Commission and School Department that both departments are in compliance with the law.
Last fall, the Board of Health expressed its concern when the Selectmen, at the suggestion of the Bike and Pedestrian Safety Committee, authorized the use of Roundup to treat the weeds growing along the paths. The Board made it clear that it opposed this type of chemical treatment and wanted to participate in any future discussions. Recently when the Selectmen approved a proposed "test" of Roundup, the Board again asked that no action occur until the Board had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Committee and the Selectmen.
The Board of Health is legally delegated by statute to look after the
health of the community. The Board plays a crucial role in protecting
the public health first as a regulatory agent and secondly as a policy
maker. Whether or not an issue falls within the Board's regulatory purview,
the town expects the Board to evaluate proactively the complexities
of the issue, examine any unintended consequences, and make recommendations
that are in the best interest of the town.
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