California city sets organic precedent

On Feb. 23, 2016 Irvine, California city council set a precedent for cities across the country by passing a new policy to switch to organic pesticides and herbicides in all public spaces. The group called Non Toxic Irvine, a grassroots organization of parents including Ayn Craciun, Kim Konte, Bob Johnson, Laurie Thompson and Kathleen Hallal, a Moms Across America supporter, spearheaded the initiative. The group presented at the meeting along with two University of California, Irvine professors who shared scientific research on the human health effects of pesticides — Dean Baker, MD, MPH, professor of Clinical Medicine and Director of UCI’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine; and Bruce Blumberg, professor of Developmental and Cell Biology in UCI’s School of Biological Sciences and professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering.

Thirty residents also spoke at the meeting, including several parents of pediatric cancer victims, one young pediatric cancer survivor, and other mothers, children and residents. They described how they believe they and their loved ones have been harmed by exposure to toxic pesticides. The residents asked the city council to, as one mother said, “Truly make Irvine the safest city in America” by using organic alternatives. 

Irvine’s City Council voted unanimously to stop the spraying of toxic pesticides in all public areas including parks, fields, playgrounds, and streets. Irvine, home of the Healthy City, Healthy Planet Initiative, made itself a much healthier destination and can now be the prototype for cities everywhere who want toxic chemicals discontinued from use in their communities. 

The Irvine City Council voted unanimously to pass the new policy.

A city staffer said, “If pesticides are needed, organic options will be used.” The policy also states that if these options do not work synthetic chemicals may be used. However, residents were encouraged by the city’s decision to discontinue the use of Roundup/glyphosate and 2,4-D in December after they were petitioned by hundreds of Irvine residents.

The text from the policy:

“With this prioritized approach, organic pesticides would be used first and as long as they are effective managing pests to meet Irvine’s standards…. Synthetic pesticides would be used only if other treatment options fail to control pests posing a risk to public health and economic impact.” 

These organic methods advocated by the group include soil testing, compost top-dressing, use of compost teas, appropriate turf height management, natural pest and disease control and more. 

When asked which brands of alternative herbicides they suggest, Ayn Craciun of Non Toxic Irvine said, “We are not promoting a particular brand, we are instead asking for an approach to landscaping that strengthens the desired plants and supports the biodiversity of the soil so that undesired plants are less able to succeed.”

Why the switch?

Overuse: 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year. 54 percent of Roundup/glyphosate based herbicides used around the world are sprayed on public areas such as parks, roadsides, sidewalks and schools.

Health Risks: 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women are expected to have cancer in their lifetime. Leukemia, non Hodgkins Lymphoma and brain cancers are on the rise, both of which have been linked to pesticide exposure. 

Growing litigation: Over 700 lawsuits are pending connecting Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup/glyphosate and non Hodgkin’s disease.

Widespread harm: Hundreds of studies now scientifically link glyphosate and other toxic herbicides and pesticides commonly sprayed in our public areas to asthma, autism, learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s diseases.

Family after family got up to speak about their experiences with pediatric cancer or other diseases and Councilmember Christina Shea shared her own cancer history. One could not help but feel the cumulative devastation of toxins in our environment. The video of the city council meeting can be seen here. The portion on pesticides is 43 minutes in.

The speakers were passionate. One mom said regarding Roundup “Just because it is legal doesn’t mean we have to use it, we expect better. And we expect Irvine to meet our expectations.”  Another said, “With toxic pesticides we know we are harming children, with education we can stop it.”  And finally a mother who lost her son to cancer said, “46 children are diagnosed with cancer every day and 7 children die everyday in America from cancer. If it were your child that was diagnosed or died today, would you know that you did everything you could?”

From Moms Across America Mission Viejo leader Natalie Paffrath, “Thank you to Irvine and all of the amazing empowered people that made tonight happen!  Because of you we have posted a petition to stop the spraying of toxic pesticides in Mission Viejo, California.”

Measures such as this one do not apply to homeowner associations, apartment communities, public school, or other private properties, therefore Non Toxic Irvine encourages concerned citizens to share the news of this progress with their neighbors as an example to effect more comprehensive change.

Moms Across America is delighted to share Non Toxic Irvine’s petition. More information at Contact:

Paffrath is a MAA Team member and Honeycutt is the founder of Moms Across America.


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