Environmental News Briefs

Mother Jones: Bird flu is slamming factory farms but sparing backyard flocks. Why?

Avian flu is spreading among commercial egg and turkey farms and has killed 36 million birds mostly in Iowa and surrounding states. Scientists can’t explain why this largest avian flu outbreak in U.S. history has left backyard flocks virtually untouched.

Landfills in South Dakota, Nebraska and northwest Iowa have turned away dead birds because of the fear of contamination. As weather warms, the spread of avian flu is expected to slow but scientists fear a resurgence in autumn.

Evanston, IL, Restricts Pesticides: Marking the fifth anniversary of its pesticide reduction policy, the city of Evanston is launching a new pesticide-free park program in five city parks. The five parks will be maintained without pesticides for one year. If the program is considered successful, it will be expanded to more parks. Instead of relying on chemical pesticides, organic management methods used at the parks will include high mowing to increase root strength and shade out weeds, and focus on improving soil health for natural weed reduction. The program is being launched with help from a local company, Greenwise Landscaping & Lawn Care Services, along with Midwest Pesticide Action Center. The city is urging residents to follow these practices on their own property and reduce chemical use in favor of natural lawn care tips posted on the city website.

U.S. Geological Survey Maps show use of chlorpyrifos in central Illinois varies year to year but 2012 was among the highest rates of application in the nation. Chlorpyrifos is a toxic insecticide banned by the EPA for residential use due to health concerns, but it is still permitted and widely used in agriculture. It is used on corn and soybeans in central Illinois.

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin linked to lower IQ, poor cognitive functioning and attention problems. A 2014 University of California-Davis study linked maternal exposure to pesticides with autism in children and found the link for chlorpyrifos was strongest for exposure during the second trimester of pregnancy.

Montgomery, Maryland, councilmembers ask hospitals to ban cosmetic landscape pesticides: Citing exposure of some of the most vulnerable residents in the community, two city councilmembers are requesting hospitals in the county assume a leading role in increasing awareness of the health concerns regarding pesticides and voluntarily agree to eliminate chemical use on hospital grounds.

In a press release, the councilmembers stated, “We are writing today to ask that hospitals in our county assume a leading role in increasing awareness of the health concerns regarding pesticides by voluntarily agreeing to eliminate their use on hospital grounds. As you know, in 2013, Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park ceased using insecticides or herbicides in advance of the Takoma Park City Council passing its ordinance restricting pesticide use. We believe it is time for every hospital to take a similar stance.”

In addition to this request, the city council is considering a bill that would limit use of non-essential pesticides on county lawns, certain athletic playing fields and county-owned public grass. The bill is considered a landmark ordinance that would protect children, pets, wildlife and the environment from unnecessary lawn and landscape pesticides.

Maryland is one of only seven states that does not prohibit local governments from barring pesticide use. The others are Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Utah, Nevada and Vermont.

Marshfield Mariner: Synthetic turf raises concerns in Marshfield

According to a recent article from New England Center for Investigative Journalism, 10 Massachusetts towns since December, including Marshfield, have raised questions about “crumb rubber” synthetic turf used on school playing fields. “Crumb rubber” is made from recycled tires and protects athletes when they fall on turf. However, some residents have questioned the health impact of exposure to chemicals in the recycled tires.

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