HB Council to Vote on Non-Toxic on 12/18

All hands on deck, Monday 12/18 6:00 p.m. at City Council Chambers!

Sorry to do this to you one week before Christmas, not our choice, but the staff’s latest report is in: On Monday, December 18, Council will vote either to direct staff to continue developing a non-toxic program for our parks, or – do nothing.

Meanwhile, other cities continue making the easy call and move to manual and organic approaches.

Here’s the Latest:

HBT, working with Non Toxic Irvine, have been engaged with city staff while they develop our non-toxic program. Staff has expressed to us their personal enthusiasm for the program, and have remarked at how impressed they are with the exciting results coming out of Irvine. Nearly two years in to their organics-first program, Irvine is seeing more and more payoff: their fields are greener and their soil is more absorbent, which means up to 80% less water. Irvine’s latest facility that went non-toxic not only was cost-neutral but actually cost-saving.

Despite these amazing successes, we were shocked to find staff’s most recent report taking a negative tone toward organics. See our letter to City Council today, December 17, outlining the confusing and misleading statements, and important omissions, from staff’s report:

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(Photos and information courtesy Non Toxic Irvine, http://www.nontoxicirvine.org.)

The bottom line is WE NEED YOU TO SHOW UP ON MONDAY NIGHT. If the Council does not see that we support this enough to turn out and speak up, the fruits of our efforts might die on the vine due to inaction.

And if you haven’t already, sign our petition.

Non-Toxic Flyer

  • Bring the whole family! We need to pack the house to show there’s community support on this very important issue.
  • We need you to share with the City Council why this change is important to you and your family.
  • Share your personal story. Why are you so interested in the dangers of pesticides? Find a way to tell your story in 60 seconds or less. No one can argue with your experience, and sharing it will make you and your message more relatable.
  • We hope this will be a historic event for the City of HB, a vote that will mark the day that the H.B’s City Council made the health of your children and the environment their priority over weed control.

Some ideas of what to say at public comments:

If you are willing to show up and speak but aren’t sure what to say, here are some important points that might give you a place to start (more info here):

  • “This year, San Juan Capistrano unanimously approved a city-wide program. So did Burbank and Carlsbad. So did Tustin. Costa Mesa and Mission Viejo are in the works. These cities are following Irvine’s example, who also unanimously approved its own city-wide program a year ago, including schools, and covering substantially more acreage. Costa Mesa and HB school districts have already halted spraying. No major problems have occurred.”
    “It is time we boldly go where others have already gone before.”
  • “Local parent have reported children being diagnosed with brain cancers in the past few years. Some of the mothers while they were pregnant lived in a condo community where glyphosate was routinely applied on paved areas immediately next to doorsteps, windows and AC units, during their pregnancies. One little boy’s 6-month treatment at CHOC cost his parents $120,000. These costs are real even if they don’t accrue directly to the landscaping company.
    “We cannot talk about landscaping costs of weed-management until we are prepared to talk about the medical costs of spraying public spaces with listed probable carcinogens.”

If you need more ideas, email me at tkowal [at] tvalaw.com.

Some Background Information:

QUESTION: What chemicals does the City currently use?

ANSWER: Currently, Huntington Beach uses a number of toxic chemicals in our parks and public areas where children, adults, and pets are exposed. These include:

  • herbicides (e.g., Roundup Promax, Glyphsate 4 Plus, Oryzalin 4 Pro, etc.);
  • insecticides (e.g., Criterior 75, Safari 20, etc.);
  • rodenticides (e.g., Kaput D, Talpirid); and
  • mulluscicides (Deadline T&O).

These chemicals are blown by winds and tracked into homes where they can be trapped in carpets for years.

QUESTION: What are the risks of using chemical pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides?

ANSWER: When pesticides are used together simultaneously, they can interact with each other in unpredictable ways, changing or amplifying their effects. This is commonly known as the “grapefruit-juice effect”: doctors often counsel patients not to drink grapefruit juice with certain medication because it may change how the body reacts to them. Pesticides work the same way, but very little research has been done in this area, so the interactions are largely untested, and thus unknown.

What is known about pesticides is that they are inherently unsafe:

  • The EPA and the National Academy of Sciences concur that children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults.
  • A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute finds that household and garden pesticide use can increase the risk of childhood leukemia as much as seven-fold. Lowengart, R., et al. 1987, Childhood Leukemia and Parent’s Occupational and Home Exposures, Journal of the National Cancer Institute 79:39.
  • Out of all 99 human studies done on lymphoma and pesticides, 75 find a link between the two. Osburn, S. 2001, Do Pesticides Cause Lymphoma? Lymphoma Foundation of America, Chevy Chase, MD.
  • The American Cancer Society published a study finding people exposed to the popular weedkiller Roundup were 2.7 times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hardell, L., et al. 1999 Mar., A Case-Control Study of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides, of the Am. Cancer Soc. (85):6. p.1353.
  • Exposure to pesticides in our parks and public areas can lead to chronic toxicity and harm to children, adults, and pets.
  • While pesticides must be registered with and approved by the EPA, this is not a guarantee of safety, or that thorough testing has been done. Assuming otherwise once caused Americans to incorrectly assume lead paint, asbestos, and cigarettes were proven safe. For example, of the 36 most commonly used lawncare pesticides registered before 1984, only one has been fully tested. Of these products, 14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 15 are linked to birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 24 with neurotoxicity, 22 with liver or kidney damage, and 34 are sensitizers or irritants. The American Academy of Pediatrics says there is no safe level of pesticide exposure for children.
  • Concerns over Roundup’s active chemical, glyphosate, continue to abound. g., Concerns Over Use of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risks Associated with Exposures: A Consensus Statement, at http://nebula.wsimg.com/5dbc5686146bf7701d1f97b53ba7c40b?AccessKeyId=F8EFA7E56875355794EB&disposition=0&alloworigin=1; Trends in Glyphosate Herbicide Use in the United States and Globally, at http://nebula.wsimg.com/7cd7b4d04249e066a50527453da41a6b?AccessKeyId=F8EFA7E56875355794EB&disposition=0&alloworigin=1.

QUESTION: What are the costs?

ANSWER: Organic turf management is less expensive in the long-run and uses 30% less water.

Studies have shown costs to be lower with organics over a 5-year term, and that’s before factoring in the health and medical costs the chemical products impose on our residents and children. Conventional chemicals only appear cheaper because they do not account for their externalities, ultimately paid for by our residents.

Many communities continue to see their children diagnosed with brain cancers, birth defects, autism, asthma, and learning disabilities, and adults diagnosed with reproductive dysfunction, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and several types of cancers. While we do not know all the causes and how they contribute, it is important to reduce the prevalence of harsh and harmful chemicals in and around our homes and where our children play.

Organic landscaping builds the bio-diversity of the soil, making desired plants healthier and better able to resist incursion by weeds. It also makes the soil spongier and better able to absorb water. See http://www.grassrootsinfo.org/pdf/turfcomparisonreport.pdf.

Depending on the results of the City’s pilot program, City Staff may be asked to determine the amount of the modest up-front costs.

QUESTION: Is it effective?

ANSWER: Yes. Harvard University has successfully used organic landscaping on its landscapes and hardscapes since 2008. See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/garden/24garden.html?_r=1 and http://www.energyandfacilities.harvard.edu/facilities-services/landscape-maintenance.

In Irvine, the Quail Hill’s master HOA has successfully used organic landscaping practices since April 2015. They stopped using toxic pesticides, switched to a vinegar solution for weeds and are using soil testing, compost top-dressing, appropriate turf height maintenance and other organic cultural practices to maintain the parks, greenbelts and other landscaping features. The change has been successful, with no homeowner complaints and no increase in costs. For questions about Quail Hill’s organic landscaping program, contact Linda Reyes with Villa Park Landscaping at linda@vplinc.com.

QUESTION: Where else has this proposal been tried?

ANSWER: On the unanimous vote of its City Council, Irvine switched to an organic landscaping policy in February 2016. Since then, Irvine has managed its more than 570 acres of parks, 800 acres of right-of-way, 70,000 trees and nearly 1.5 million square feet of facilities without conventional pesticides, including glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular Roundup product. The transition to organic landscape management starts with soil testing and involves practices such as heavy mulching, overseeding turf, appropriate turf height maintenance, and use of compost teas. There have been no known complaints to the program.

San Clemente City Council in April 2017 approved a non-toxic proposal.

HB Unified School District in early 2017 stayed the use of chemicals to roll out an organic program.

Costa Mesa School District has done the same.

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