What Would Christmas Be Without Diazinon?
BPC to Act on Repeal of Spray Notification Registry
The Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) must act on several pesticide issues passed in the last legislative session. LD 228 repealed the state's Aerial and Air Carrier Pesticide Spray Notification Registry and requires BPC action by January 1, 2012, to allow for “by request” notification when aerial spraying will occur. So residents and property owners wishing to be notified will have to pay to be notified or confront pesticide sprayers directly, depending on the population density of the area being sprayed. The legislature also shortened the distance for which neighbors can receive notification to 1,000 feet. The board will be adopting these changes into its rule and notifying citizens on the registry that notification rules have changed again. Despite the repeal, Maine legislators have promised to introduce legislation in the coming session to create an improved registry. MOFGA will continue defending the public's right to know and developing strong protections from public exposures to pesticides.
The legislature defeated a bill to protect children from pesticides sprayed on playgrounds and at day care facilities. The bill would have required that the use of pesticides on school grounds be restricted to situations that pose a health threat to a student or staff member and to when the presence of animals (including insects) had been identified as a public health nuisance. It would have required the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to adopt rules to provide similar restrictions on the grounds of child care facilities and nursery schools. The majority of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee changed the bill into a resolve to promote integrated pest management on school grounds, rather than prohibit cosmetic use of pesticides. The amended version of the bill prevailed in the House. MOFGA supported the minority report (the original text), not the amended report.
According to the version of LD 837 that passed, the BPC must develop best management practices (BMPs) for school lawns, playgrounds and playing fields. The board will seek limited input from stakeholder groups on those BMPs. MOFGA will remind the BPC of its testimony regarding this issue.
LD 975 requires that the board revise Chapter 32 to include standards for certification and licensing of private applicators using general use pesticides in commercial production of food intended for human consumption if they derive $1,000 or more per year from sales of those commodities. Over the next few months, the BPC will work on licensing requirements to comply with this law and logistics of implementing it.
For more information on Maine legislation related to pesticides, see www.mofga.org/Programs/PublicPolicyInitiatives/PesticidesAction/CurrentPesticideLegislationInMaine/tabid/1505/Default.aspx.
Chapter 41 requires training for those who purchase genetically engineered Bt corn. Lauchlin Titus of AgMatters LLC has requested abolishing that requirement. The board began discussing this in July and will likely continue the discussion this fall and winter.
In June the BPC unanimously approved a special local need request for the pesticide diazinon on Christmas trees. (See sidebar below.)
In May the BPC approved a variance request for DeAngelo Brothers, Inc., of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for vegetation control along the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad. When BPC staff asked the company to remove Diuron from its list of herbicides, the company replaced it with pyraflufen-ethyl, which the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) does not use on its sections of rail because California lists it as a possible human carcinogen. The board approved the request but asked that future variance requests of this nature model Maine DOT BMPs.
In May the BPC approved a variance request for RWC, Inc., to maintain railways along several tracks. By BPC policy, once a request is granted, the staff may renew the variance unless it receives complaints. In this case, several citizens said at a BPC meeting in Portland in 2010 that they were concerned about pesticide applications along part of the Gorham Rail Trail, so the board did not automatically approve the renewal request. A local group called Friends of the Rails to Trails has been working with the Maine DOT and has agreed to maintain this section of rail without herbicides as long as possible. If the rail becomes an active line for freight, the group will no longer be allowed to maintain the section, and herbicides will be used. Alternative methods for controlling vegetation along the rail, such as steam and infrared light, have been deemed cost prohibitive.
In June the board approved a variance request for DuBois Contracting of Fort Kent to apply pesticides within 25 feet of the high water mark on the St. John River. DuBois will use the herbicide Rodeo (active ingredient, glyphosate) and the drift control agent Liberate, which according to the variance request will cause “total elimination of all vegetation along the rocky portion of the river side of the dike per regulations of the federal government.” Although no BPC board or staff member could cite such a regulation, the BPC approved the request. In July, the board provided the Army Corps of Engineers federal regulation related to the request. The Corps requires a vegetation-free zone, but the zone can include grasses. The board did not discuss options that would retain grasses.
In July, Green Thumb Lawn Service of Brewer asked for a variance to treat poison ivy at a home on Pushaw Lake with Roundup Pro herbicide (active ingredient, glyphosate). Because the poison ivy encompassed about 560 square feet immediately adjacent to the lake and within the 25-foot high water mark, a variance was needed. The BPC unanimously approved the request but questioned the efficacy of glyphosate to control poison ivy and gave Green Thumb other suggestions and the flexibility to find a chemical that would work well.
Egbert’s Lawncare LLC of Gorham, Maine, was cited for applying pesticides to a Portland property without consent. George Egbert applied Triplet Premium Selective Herbicide to property neighboring his mother’s. Those neighbors contacted the BPC, and Egbert was fined $350.
Northeast Agricultural Sales, Inc., of Detroit, Maine, a pesticide dealer and custom applicator, was fined $250 for a pesticide that drifted in May 2010. Northeast had been contracted to apply Atrazine to a Skowhegan corn field. During the application, the complainant, who lives adjacent to the field, noted that her property was engulfed in a white dust, which a BPC investigation later confirmed as Atrazine.
In 2009 the BPC reached a consent agreement with A-One Exclusion of Gorham, New Hampshire, for a pesticide application violation. A-One signed the agreement but never paid the fine and did not respond to the board’s repeated requests. In May the BPC voted to refer the case to the Attorney General’s office.
– Katy Green
What Would Christmas Be Without Diazinon?
At its June meeting the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) unanimously approved a Special Local Need 24[c] registration for use of diazinon to control balsam gall midge on balsam fir trees grown in nurseries in Maine. Balsam fir is grown for Christmas trees and for wreath brush and will be shipped all over the country this holiday season. The BPC approves several Special Local Need registrations each year, generally to allow the pesticide user to apply the pesticide in a way that is not consistent with the label – in this case on a crop that is not listed on the label.
This registration warrants special attention because of diazinon’s particular toxicity and pervasiveness in natural ecosystems. Diazinon is an organophosphate insecticide, a class of chemicals that affect the nervous system. Organophosphates are neurotoxins, developmental and reproductive toxins, and suspected endocrine disruptors in humans. Recent studies have linked organophosphates to an increased risk of ADHD in children. In 2004 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency canceled all residential uses of diazinon, specifically citing risks to children. Until then, diazinon was widely used in residential settings and was regularly detected in surface waters. A 1999 report from California found that even when applied according to label directions, diazinon was prone to run off and pollute nearby waters. (Schueler, T.R. 1999. Diazinon sources in runoff from the San Francisco Bay region. Watershed Protection Techniques, 3:613-616)
Maine’s 24[c] instructions for using diazinon on balsam fir recommend the applicator “try to spray underside of leaves and penetrate dense foliage.” In other words, treat every needle as thoroughly as possible. In Maine, diazinon will be applied using air carrier equipment, and the droplets will touch not only Christmas trees, but surrounding areas. The label for this chemical says it is “highly toxic” to wildlife, ranging from fish, including Atlantic salmon, to birds and bees, and warns the applicator to “not apply this pesticide or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are visiting the treatment area.”
Diazinon can also harm applicators. The Journal of Pesticide Reform fact sheet on diazinon (www.pesticide.org/get-the-facts/pesticide-factsheets/factsheets/diazinon) details potential health effects to applicators, including an increasing risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the longer the farmer uses diazinon.
In June, one BPC member commented that organophosphates would likely continue to be phased out over time and asked whether Christmas tree growers had considered an alternative. The response was that nothing worked like that class of chemicals and that Christmas trees aren’t food crops – implying less risk. Diazinon is also used on conventionally grown food crops, however, including apples, cranberries, blueberries and strawberries.
The BPC spent less than 20 minutes discussing this use of diazinon and didn’t mention risks to wildlife or farm workers.
For more information on growing Christmas trees sustainably, see Jean English’s editorial in the Fall 2011 Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.
– Katy Green