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Baltimore city bans pesticide use in public parks, private lawns

Patterson Park in Baltimore.
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Patterson Park in Baltimore.

Toxic chemicals won’t be sprayed in city parks across Baltimore to kill weeds anymore starting on July 1.

In October 2020, Baltimore city council approved a new ordinance banning pesticides, insecticides and herbicides with chlorpyrifos, neonicotinoids and glyphosate on public and private properties.

The goal is to improve public health and reduce chemical runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

The city’s finance department estimated it will spend $321,600 annually for workers to use weed whackers instead of spraying pesticides which costs $80,400 each year.

City officials estimated it would spend another $160,000 to enforce the new ordinance each year. Residents who continue to use restricted chemicals can face a $250 fine each day they spray it.

Environmental advocates pushed for the measure and lauded the new law.

“It’s absurd that weed killers, designed to make our lives more convenient, and food production more efficient, should be allowed to put public health at risk,” said Emily Scarr, state director of Maryland Public Interest Research Group, a consumer protection advocacy group. “In the absence of consistently strong state and federal action, Baltimoreans should thank our city leaders for standing up to protect our health from these toxic chemicals.”

In 2015, Montgomery County banned the herbicide glyphosate on public and private green spaces. Even after a court challenge by landowners the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the ban.

In 2018, a state law was enacted which prohibits consumers from buying pesticides containing neonicotinoids, which has been shown to harm honey bees.

In 2020, the Maryland Agriculture Department decided to phase out its use of pesticide chlorpyrifos often sprayed on golf courses and some food crops.

Kristen Mosbrucker is a digital news editor and producer for WYPR. @k_mosbrucker
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