“I don’t want them spraying around me,” she said. “It has a sublethal impact, like smoking. It took years before they admitted that smoking causes cancer and they labeled cigarettes. The same thing is going to happen with the herbicides and pesticides. If there’s a doubt, why use it?”
While trying to get the township to use organic methods to kill the weed, Nelson was successful in persuading the council to consider that approach in maintaining public lands.
If the Legislature passes the Safe Playing Fields Act, municipalities won’t have a choice but to restrict pesticides and herbicides at child-care centers, schools and recreational fields. New York and three provinces of Canada have passed similar measures in response to a proposed but unproven medical link between dioxin, a chemical compound in 2,4-D, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and thyroid disruption in fetuses. Canadians also have banned the chemical compound from home lawn use.
In 2008, the National Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups made a second request to have the EPA ban 2,4-D based on a number of alarming studies that have been done within environmental, scientific and medical communities.
The fact that the EPA bases its decisions in large part on tests conducted by the chemical companies that produce the products is infuriating, Nelson said.
“That’s ridiculous,” she said. “How can they be trusted?”
The preserve has been sprayed with herbicides many times over the years, Loos said, but that hasn’t been an issue until Nelson spoke up.
“America needs to wake up to this,” said Nelson, a native of England who raised her three grown children in Union County. “Why should we be subjected to these chemicals if there’s the slightest bit of evidence that they’re harmful? And why should we be forced to prove that they’re harmful? If they’re suspected of being harmful, the companies who make them ought to be the ones to prove that they are not.”read more