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Question of the Month ~ September 2012


Q. What are Midwestern states’ policies on public notification of lawn pesticide application?

A: American citizens and businesses spent almost $62 billion on landscaping services in 2007, according to U.S. Census data. And to help keep those lawns and gardens pest-free, more than 102 million pounds of pesticides are applied yearly in the United States, according to Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit group advocating for limited use of pesticides.
One of the biggest concerns about these chemicals is their potential impact on humans, which can include nerve damage, birth defects and cancer, reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
At the same time, pesticide sales and landscaping are growing industries. Pesticides are also used for non-cosmetic purposes, such as controlling invasive plants and potentially dangerous insects, such as mosquitoes that could carry West Nile virus and other diseases.
In order to permit the use of approved pesticides — and ensure that the public is informed about such use — many states have passed legislation requiring notification of pesticide application.
Seven Midwestern states (see map) require companies to post signs immediately after applying pesticides to public or private lawns or gardens, parks and other public spaces. (The laws generally do not apply to individuals using products on their own property, or to agricultural land, which is regulated separately.)
These signs warn that pesticides have been recently applied and direct people to avoid the treated area. The length of time the signs must remain posted varies; Illinois allows their removal the next day, for example, while in Wisconsin they must remain for 72 hours.
Some states also have laws aimed specifically at protecting children, whose developing bodies make them more vulnerable to pesticides. Children also spend more time playing on lawns and athletic fields, which increases their exposure to the chemicals.
Five states in the Midwest have laws specifically addressing the application of pesticides on school property. In Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, schools must keep a list of parents who wish to be notified of future pesticide applications. Parents must be notified within two days in Illinois and Indiana, within 24 hours in Michigan, and “as soon as possible” in Minnesota and Ohio.
In Indiana and Michigan, pesticides cannot be sprayed during normal school hours, and students must be kept away from the area for at least four hours. In Michigan, a sign must be posted at the school for 48 hours.
While many municipalities have their own pesticide regulations, every state in the Midwest except South Dakota prohibits local statutes that are more stringent than the state’s pesticide law.


Question of the Month response written by Kate Tormey, CSG Midwest policy analyst/assistant editor.