Maryland PIRG, along with our partners at Environment Maryland are proud to support comprehensive legisation to restrict the use of toxic pesticides in Baltimore City. Below is our testimony for today’s remote hearing in the City Council’s Health Committee.
Council Ordinance 20-0495 Pesticide Control and Regulation
May 7, 2020
Chairman Burnett and Members of the Committee,
We applaud Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke for introducing legislation to ban all pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, neonicotinoids, and glyphosate (the main chemical in RoundUp). Scientists, farmers, beekeepers and advocates have sounded the alarm: it’s time to ban these toxic chemicals.
As members of Maryland’s Smart on Pesticides Coalition, we have helped create robust coalition testimony, but also wanted to highlight a few key points for our organizations.
It’s absurd that weed killers, designed to make our lives more convenient, and food production more efficient, should be allowed to put public health at risk. All of these toxic pesticides are harmful to health.
Glyphosate is the main chemical ingredient in RoundUp. Roundup, and generic versions of it, is the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. According to the cancer agency at the World Health Organization, glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. This study links glyphosate to a wide range of cancers including pancreatic cancer, skin cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and endocrine disruption, as well as non-cancer illness such as liver and kidney damage, genetic damage, decreased sperm count and developmental abnormalities.
Chlorpyrifos is a toxic, nerve agent pesticide that harms public health, the environment and wildlife. It is found in air and water—and people’s bodies. In 2016, the EPA found that infants, children, young girls and women are exposed to dangerous levels of chlorpyrifos through the food they eat, and that children eat up to 140 times the safety limit throughout their lifetimes.
Even low-level exposure can cause developmental delays, brain damage and behavioral problems in children. This insecticide belongs to a class of chemicals called organophosphates, which includes now outlawed chemicals like sarin gas that were used in WWI as neurotoxins. While chlorpyrifos is most harmful to developing humans, people of all ages can suffer from nausea, dizziness, and convulsions from acute exposure. Evidence of these harmful effects were witnessed in California in 2017, when several workers were hospitalized from exposure and dozens more sought medical attention.
Neonics are neurotoxics and may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory according to recent research by the European Food Safety Authority. Some neonics may affect the developing human nervous system, as well as potentially increase the risk of cancer, reproductive harm and endocrine disruption.
No Bees, No Food
In addition to direct impacts on public health, we should be taking every precaution to protect our pollinators and our food supply. There is conclusive evidence that neonicotinoids and Chlorpyrifos are deadly to bees. These chemicals not only kill bees outright, but can also damage their ability to learn, their memory, their ability to produce a new queen and it reduces their ability to fight varroa mites.
Bees are dying at an unprecedented rate—millions of them—with real consequences for our environment and our food supply. A University of Maryland study found that honeybee losses last winter were the greatest in 13 years.
Pollinator losses should concern us because losing our bees means losing a huge percentage of our food. Bees are essential to our food supply. They pollinate apples, blueberries, avocados, coffee, almonds, cucumbers, pumpkins, alfalfa used to feed dairy cows, tomatoes and so much more. Just 100 crops provide 90 percent of the world’s food. We rely on bees to pollinate 71 of these essential crops. And beyond food, a world without bees weakens the web of life that sustains us and all species.
We should be taking every precaution to protect our pollinators and our food supply. Banning these toxic chemicals is a critical step.
Thank you for your service to Baltimore. We urge you to support this bill.
State Director, Maryland PIRG
Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.