Commentary: Ignorance about lawn chemicals

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City residents are easily persuaded that farmers are the reason for nutrient and pesticide runoff polluting streams and rivers, but they forget pollution from their lawns and all of their neighbor’s lawns.

It is common that city homeowners hire lawn services or buy what a big box lumberyard employee recommends. In either case, it is unlikely that they know exactly what is being applied. When doing an application themselves and their lot does not require quite the amount of product purchased, the typical action is to slightly over apply to empty the bag.

A good example of homeowners being uninformed comes from the upscale Cape Cod, Mass., area. A survey by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis found that 70 percent of resident respondents used lawn fertilizers, weed-control products and/or pesticides on their property.

The Cape Cod Times reported, “Among those who used fertilizer on their properties, 43 percent couldn’t name the product. Of those who used pesticides, almost 34 percent couldn’t name the product or company that made it.” And the newspaper noted that this survey is in line with previous studies of who uses pesticides and fertilizers and in what amounts.

A common reaction by many of those surveyed about amount and product name were typical of one response, “How would I know? I just pay the bill.”

Activists in this area of Massachusetts are more motivated to blame city dwellers for pollution and protecting groundwater as well as local bays and ponds. Big bucks have been spent in mapping wells and doing the inventory of fertilizers and pesticide used in the region.

The degree of regulations that will eventually be enacted appears to be up in the air.

It is only right that if farmers are going to be heavily regulated in fertilizer and pesticide use, then it is only right that city residents be under the thumb of regulators, just like the Cape Cod activists are trying to accomplish.

Regulation against all is going to spread, and city homeowners cannot be the last ones regulated.

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