Protecting eagles, wildlife and our health

Urgent action needed to cut toxic pesticides and protect wildlife.


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After the recent death of a bald eagle that was nesting in Arlington, MASSPIRG strengthened our call for passage of a bill that will protect children and wildlife by restricting the use of toxic pesticides, including Glyphosate, and rodenticides. The bill calls for integrated pest management — an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on common-sense practices—and a modernization of our outdated pesticide reporting system. 

An Act relative to pesticides, S487/H825 filed by Sen. Feeney (Foxboro) and Rep. Hawkins (Attleboro) was refiled this year as it failed to make it over the finish line when the last session ended, despite winning support from both the Massachusetts House and Senate. 

There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, used in everything from perfumes and household cleaners to fertilizers and industrial solvents. Yet most of them go directly into use without testing their impact on our health, or the long-term consequences for the environment. Given what we know about the potential harm some chemicals can do, we shouldn’t rush a chemical into widespread industrial or commercial use before we know for sure that it’s safe. Certainly, we should stop using the ones we know or suspect are harmful.

“Most of us take it for granted that the food we eat and the fields our children play on at school or  in our own backyards are not putting their  health at risk,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director, MASSPIRG. “But unfortunately, too often, that is not the case.”

The World Health Organization has warned that the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, glyphosate, is a probable human carcinogen.  Despite the risks, we spray 26 million pounds of Roundup on public parks, playgrounds, schools and gardens every year. And now studies are finding glyphosate in places it shouldn’t be including cereals, beer, ice cream, and our bodies. 

There have now been a few high profile cases of bald eagles dying  as a result of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR) poisoning. 

According to Mass Audubon, second-generation anticoagulants don’t kill rodents immediately. While these rodenticides can kill rats with a single dose (which is why many consumers prefer them), poisoned rats can still live for a few days and continue eating poisoned bait. This delay means that rats can ingest enough poison to kill a much larger animal by the time they finally succumb. While any rodenticide can kill a raptor, second-generation anticoagulants are the most dangerous. 

Modernizing our pesticide use reporting system will allow for the study and tracking of pesticide and rodenticide use. The data collected is a necessary step in showing the harmful impact of rodenticides on raptors like the bald eagle. While consumer use of many SGARS have been banned from the consumer market, they are still used by licensed exterminators. Better data will enable further restrictions of the harmful rodenticides.  

“This bill came so close to passing last session with both branches supporting it. We can not afford further delay for a measure that will protect our health, the health of wildlife and the health of our environment, ” said Cummings. 

This bill would:

  • Require MDAR (Dept. of Agricultural Resources) to use an online database for pesticide use reporting records
  • Require the use of integrated pest management plans on the lands of public institution of higher education (it’s already required for K-12)
  • Only pesticides considered minimum risk by the U.S. EPA and those permitted for organic use will be allowed near schools and child care centers in Massachusetts (except in the case of a health emergency when school officials could apply for a waiver).

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