Neighboring County Wages War on Lawns

By Gil Medeiros, Fairfax Master Gardener
I hope it doesn’t happen here in Fairfax County. I’m speaking of the Comprehensive Ban on the use of “cosmetic lawn pesticides” enacted recently by Montgomery County, Md. While reduction in the use of pesticides is a laudable goal, this is the not the way to do it.

The ban, patterned after one enacted by Takoma Park, Md., in 2013, will begin to take effect in 2017. It includes the following.

  • The Class 9 pesticide list from Ontario, Canada. This list contains 119 pesticides. The Ontario website says “Class 9 pesticides are banned for cosmetic purposes because they may (emphasis added by author) pose an unnecessary risk to human health, particularly children’s health.” One may infer from this language that the Canadians do not have a real handle on the level of risk posed by any of the chemicals under their blanket ban.
  • A list of chemicals that are deemed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be carcinogenic to humans or likely carcinogenic to humans. By my count, this adds about 25 chemicals to the ban; none of these are commonly used on lawns. (Data from EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System database, advanced search for carcinogenic or likely to be carcinogenic to humans)
  • The European Commission’s list of 66 endocrine disruptors. Very few of these are used on lawns, or in gardens for that matter. The fungicides maneb, zineb and thiram are on the commission’s list. Zineb and Thiram are also on the Ontario list.
  • The EPA’s list of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP). This list covers more than 1,000 products that cannot be purchased without a license. Products often make the RUP list because the formulations are concentrated and pose a handling hazard to untrained members of the general public. The RUP list is by product name; the Ontario list is by active ingredient. A simple cross check reveals that the vast majority of products on the RUP list contain active ingredients already banned by the Ontario list.

Good luck to you, the lawn owners in Montgomery County. As a result of this ban, you will no longer be able to control broadleaf weeds in your lawns because selective lawn herbicides such as 2, 4 D, dicamba, MCCP, and triclopyr are included. Crabgrass? Get ready to do a lot of hand-pulling because the pre-emergent crabgrass killer dithiopyr will be gone. Yes, the organic alternative, corn gluten meal, is approved for use as a pre-emergent. The trouble is, it doesn