Tuesday, May 12, 2015

MoCo Councilmembers to county hospitals: Stop using pesticides

George Leventhal
The Montgomery County Council has yet to pass a controversial bill that would limit the use of many common pesticides on lawns, athletic fields and public green spaces in the county. But Councilmembers Roger Berliner (D-District 1) and George Leventhal (D-At-Large) are twisting the arms of hospitals in the county, asking them to cease using pesticides now. The councilmen sent executives of those hospitals a letter Monday.
Roger Berliner
“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,” wrote Councilmembers Leventhal and Berliner. “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.” 

According to County Council spokesperson Neil Greenburger, the recipients of the letter were Terry Forde, the President and CEO of Adventist Healthcare; Gene Green, President of Suburban Hospital; Peter Monge, President of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center; Kevin Sexton, President and CEO of Holy Cross Health; and Kurt Newman, President of Children’s National Health System. 

Leventhal is currently President of the Council, Chairman of the Council's Health and Human Services Committee, and is the lead sponsor of the pesticide bill.

Here is the complete text of the letter:

May 11, 2015 

As you may be aware, the Montgomery County Council is currently considering a range of measures that would, if adopted, significantly reduce the use of pesticides in our County. This effort is driven in large part by concerns that have been raised by the medical community about the potential negative impacts of exposure to pesticides on human health. 

There are strong signals from leading medical professionals that there is a fundamental need to reduce the amount of pesticides to which individuals are exposed. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 

“Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity. Acute poisoning risks are clear, and understanding of chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems.” 

Earlier this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate, a commonly used pesticide, was “probably carcinogenic.” 

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. 

Regardless of how broader questions about pesticide regulation are resolved by our Council, your taking this step would help to reduce pesticide exposure for some of our most vulnerable residents, and more broadly, would increase awareness in our community as to its potential harmful effects. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response. 

Photo of Leventhal: Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row
Photo of Berliner courtesy of County Council website

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

"twisting the arm"? Lol.

Anonymous said...

Dyer misses DDT and Chlordane.

Anonymous said...

SO let's see, our streets all look like the lunar surface, our taxes are onerous, we have ongoing council spending and mismanagement fiascos like the Silver Spring transportation center, our public sector unions are busily blocking things like realigning school opening times to conform better to kids' cicadian rhythms, etc.

And Leventhal and Berliner are busy writing official letters trying to strong arm hospitals into not using pesticides on their lawns. (BTW, how do they get to write official letters on this?)

Excellent.

Great to see that MoCo has its priorities in order.

Anonymous said...

11:00AM It is amazing. This MoCo Council doesn't take responsibility for anything. They always shift blame.

And they get away with it since they don't have media oversight. We need more local journalists like Robert.

At least some other journos that will ask a tough question occasionally. :)

Robert Dyer said...

8:13: Do you have a better description for releasing a public letter saying to "make it so," rather than sitting down and forging an agreement in cooperation with the hospitals?

Anonymous said...

@ 11:00 AM -

"kids Cicadian rhythm"?

Your kids only get up once every 17 years? LOL

But seriously, WTF do "unions" have to do with the issue of school start times?

Anonymous said...

Circadian, not cicadian. Typo there.

The story about the unions is that the teachers union is evidently pushing back against rescheduling the opening time of the schools so that high schools open later and elementary/middle schools open earlier (a realignment that would be more in keeping with the natural daily rhythms of most, but not all, kids of those ages).


Anonymous said...

How do two councilmen get to send a letter strong arming businesses to do something even before it is voted on by the council?

Particularly when it is going to be a close vote on this, and it may not actually get the votes?

How is this not abuse of the office by Leventhal and Berliner?

Anonymous said...

"Strong-arming" implies that they have been forced to do something. What have they been forced to do?

Anonymous said...

Megalomania set in long ago with Mr. Leventhal.

G. Money said...

Do people really think it's a scandal that the county is prioritizing public health over their stupid local taxes? That is the most idiotic thing I've ever seen posted on here. What a bunch of selfish assholes.

Dyer, I think your reporting on this was fine, I just don't get the reaction.

Anonymous said...

11:18 There are what.. 4 hospitals in the county? What % of total land do they make up? 0.000001%? Banning pesticides here will have little effect. The council members have limited time and resources -- are there no more important problems to focus their time on?

G. Money said...

8:09AM - It's not just about the percentage of land, it's what that land is used for and who might be exposed. I don't know if you bothered to read the letter, but there are concerns about both acute and chronic exposure to pesticides. One can certainly imagine that any acute effects may be exacerbated in individuals with compromised immune systems. In particular, it might be a good idea not to expose newborn children to pesticides that can cause developmental effects. I'm not a medical doctor so I can't judge the potential severity of those effects, but I can certainly say that the economic costs of developmental conditions brought on by pesticide exposure have the potential to vastly outweigh local taxes.

Anonymous said...

8:56: Are newborns crawling around on the freshly-treated hospital lawns? I'm not familiar with Shady Grove, but the nearest hospital to me (Suburban) barely has any lawn and I've never seen anyone relaxing on it.

G. Money said...

You're assuming that someone has to lay around on a freshly treated lawn to get any negative effects from exposure. Also, the letter explicitly states that this move is meant to provide a public signal on health effects of pesticide use, so it's as much about the message as the actual effect. Obviously if hospitals are the only ones to stop it won't make any difference.

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