“For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals from the moment of conception until death … These chemicals are now stored in the bodies of the vast majority of human beings, regardless of age. They occur in the mother’s milk, and probably in the tissues of the unborn child.”
In 1962, Rachel Carson sounded this alarm in her seminal book, “Silent Spring.” Fifty-seven years later, the situation has deteriorated further rather than improve. According to the EPA, over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United States every year, and per USDA data analyzed by Environmental Working Group, up to 70 percent of produce sold in the United States contains pesticide residue.
The increased use of glyphosate, the principal ingredient in Roundup weed killer and the poster child for dangerous pesticides in the United States, continues at an alarming rate, going from 13.9 million pounds applied in 1992 to 287 million pounds in 2016 per the National Geological Survey. Scientific studies associate exposure to pesticides with serious health problems such as cancer, child developmental disorders, learning disabilities, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, liver damage, endocrine disruption, reproductive dysfunction and even death. Pesticide residue permeates our air, water, land and food. No living organism — human, animal or plant — is immune from its effects.
The massive scale of this crisis can feel overwhelming. What can one do to help alleviate this problem? Last summer, I learned that two other Blue Hill residents, Semena Curlik and Gabrielle Wellman, shared my concern. We began studying the health effects of pesticides and researched healthy alternatives to their use. We discovered that at least 29 municipalities in Maine have already passed ordinances that limit the use of pesticides.
Using ordinances of Camden, Rockland, Ogunquit, South Portland and Portland as a foundation, we began writing an ordinance to propose to Blue Hill voters. We met weekly for five months to complete the Blue Hill Healthy Ecosystem Ordinance. When enacted, this ordinance will prohibit the “application, storage or sale of synthetic substances (pesticides) other than those specifically listed as ‘allowed’ in the National Organic Program (U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances),” with exemptions (i.e. commercial farms) sited in the ordinance.
The ordinance will be voted on at Town Hall on Friday, April 3, 2020, as part of referendum voting that opens Town Meeting. Once enacted, the effective date of this ordinance will be Jan. 1, 2021.
To help publicize this effort, a website, BlueHillHealthyEcosystem.com, has been created. On this site, you will find the ordinance, ordinance FAQ, a wealth of information relating to pesticides and healthy solutions for a healthier future. Additional articles and information, including Second Tuesday Educational Evenings and a public hearing before the town vote will be added as available.
The Second Tuesday Educational Evenings will be held at the Blue Hill Library and will begin at 7 p.m. The first of these monthly evenings is Dec. 10 and will feature a presentation titled “Why Pesticides are Superfluous” by Eliot Coleman. Details of the ordinance will be discussed and there will be time for Q&A. Please come to the library and participate in what is sure to be an informative evening.
In the meantime, we are gathering signatures to place the Blue Hill Healthy Ecosystem Ordinance on the ballot. If you are a registered Blue Hill voter, see one of us around town, and would like to sign, please ask. We’ll have petitions in hand.