Environmentalists warn against lawn care chemicals

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(Host) A regional environmental group is taking on the nation’s largest lawn care service. The Toxics Action Center says the ChemLawn company uses a variety of potentially dangerous pesticides. But a company spokesman says all its materials are approved by federal regulators and are safe when used properly.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Although heavy snow still hides any hint of green grass, Alyssa Schuren of the Toxics Action Center says people will soon be thinking spring. And when plans turn to lawn care, Schuren hopes the public avoids the chemical pesticides used by TruGreen ChemLawn, the nation’s largest lawn service company. The center released a study that it says shows the dangerous downside of lush green lawns.

(Schuren) “What we found here is that 53 percent of what ChemLawn is using has been linked with cancer. They are possible carcinogens as defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.”

(Dillon) The Toxics Action Center, along with environmentalists around the country, have launched a campaign against ChemLawn. Sharon Behar, a South Burlington resident, was the first person locally to sign a pledge rejecting the chemical lawn treatment.

(Behar) “I don’t want to have to think, ‘caution, warning, danger’ every time I bring my baby to a soccer game to let her crawl on the grass. I don’t want to have to think, ‘caution, danger, warning’ very time I’m at a picnic at a friend’s house. Do I let my baby sit on the grass and put pieces of grass in her mouth or not?”

(Dillon) A spokesman for ServiceMaster, ChemLawn’s parent company, says all its lawn materials are approved by federal and state regulators. Steve Bono, a senior vice president for ServiceMaster, says the company has been in touch with the Toxics Action Center but will continue to market its lawn service.

(Bono) “What we’re going to do is what we’ve always done which is adhere to what the government is in terms of setting the standards. They have the best science, the best scientists. The moment they say this stuff is not what should be used we would obviously adhere to that. So I think science is on our side on this one.”

(Dillon) But Schuren of the Toxics Action Center says she wants the company to become truly green, and lead the way to organic methods of lawn care.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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