Pesticides can be found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. They are found in our soil and even in our breast milk. These pesticides are the only toxic substances released intentionally into our environment to kill living things: to kill weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), and others. They are used almost everywhere — not only in agricultural fields, but also in homes, parks, schools, buildings, forests, and roads.
Since the publication of Rachel Carson’s landmark 1962 book Silent Spring, which reveals the horrifying impacts of pesticides like DDT, scientists are continually discovering new and disturbing ways that pesticides threaten our environment and our health. We now know that:
Pesticides are hazardous to human health,
causing reproductive and developmental effects, cancer, kidney and liver damage, endocrine disruption, etc. Exposure mainly occurs through the skin, inhalation, orally, or through the eyes.
Pesticides cause special problems for children,
whose bodies and developing organs are particularly vulnerable. Children take in pesticides in the womb, at home and daycare, and on schools and playgrounds. Using MRI technology, researchers found that even low levels exposure to the widely used insecticide chlorpyrifos in utero caused irreversible brain damage.
Children ages 6-11 nationwide have significantly higher levels of pesticide residues in their bodies than all other age categories
Pesticides are particularly dangerous for farmers and farmworkers.
People and families working on and living near industrial farms are some of the most at-risk populations. And they are some of the least protected workers in the US.
Pesticides can contaminate our food, harm pollinators, and threaten our ecosystems.
Pesticides, especially a group of pesticides called neonicitinoids (or neonics), are killing the pollinators we depend on to support our food systems: bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, moths, other insects, and even lizards and small mammals.
Pesticides are immensely profitable for the corporations who manufacture them.
The chemical industry is led by powerful corporations that plan to join into 3 mega mergers: Dow-DuPont, ChemChina-Syngenta, and Bayer-Monsanto. Meanwhile these corporations are doubling down on trying to stifle research and pressuring the U.S. administration to scrap studies about the harms of pesticides.
If all three deals close, the three resulting companies would control 70 percent of the world’s pesticide market, more than 61 percent of commercial seed sales and 80 percent of the U.S. corn-seed market.
Pesticides don’t actually solve pest problems.
We also know that pesticides are unnecessary for cost-effective, safe and healthy agricultural and landscaping management. The real solution to our pest and weed problems lies in non-toxic and cultural methods, not in pulling the pesticide trigger. Organically grown foods and sustainable methods of pest control are key to our families’ health and the health of the environment.
Pesticides pose too many unknowns:
We don’t know what’s in them and when and where they are being used. Right now, despite all the harm we know is caused by pesticides, the U.S. federal government is making huge budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). States and local communities look to the EPA for guidance and protection, but the federal level is determined to work against the science and against the trend for progress.
This is all the more reason why states and local communities here in New England need to redouble their efforts to curb pesticide use, so that we can protect the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.
Toxics Action Center is working side by side with communities to:
- Reduce pesticide use
- Fight for the right to know who is using chemicals, where, when, how, what pesticides are being used, and why
- Protect our communities, workers, and children
- Push for better testing
- Ensure the health of our pollinators and food systems
Here are some examples of the winning pesticides campaigns we have worked on over the past 30 years:
2017: With Toxics Action Center’s support, more than 65 garden retailers have made commitments to restrict the use of pesticides, including major national and international companies like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Costco, and True Value.
2016: In Maine Toxics Action Center helped Protect South Portland pass a local ordinance banning use of harmful pesticides. The ordinance will come into effect in the City over three years, starting in Spring 2017 with City property, then in 2018 with residential property, and finally in 2019 with golf courses.
2013: As a result of a huge organizing effort on Cape Cod with GreenCAPE, all fifteen Cape towns have passed resolutions asking NStar to abandon their toxic plans to spray underneath power lines. Cape Senators and Representatives have echoed their demands. Wellfleet even made their town lands completely organic and pesticide-free. And NStar listened, postponing the spraying.
2007: Residents in Downeast Maine were concerned about chemical drift from aerial spraying of blueberry fields. We worked with their group, Maine Coalition Against Pesticides (MCAP), to get an agreement with the company to switch to safer methods.
2006: After a six-year battle, Brunswick residents voted to pass Brunswick’s Community Health and Land Care ordinance, a huge victory for children’s health and for the environment. The ordinance advocated for by community group, Brunswick Pesticide Watch, specifically bans toxic chemicals and composted sewage sludge from the town’s lawn care program.
2005: Toxics Action Center is founding member of the CT Safe School Grounds coalition and in 2005, Connecticut made history by becoming the first state in the United States to ban synthetic pesticide use on school grounds at day cares and K-8 schools. In 2010 we fought and won to uphold the law and protect kids in Connecticut.