At the time, it sounded like a good idea to some — Ban pesticides because they may cause injury to people and the environment. Not to say that they do, but just that they may. However, in the case of the Massachusetts Highway Department, the cure was far worse than the problem. Massachusetts imposed a ban on herbicide applications on roadsides five years ago and is lifting the ban this month. Officials said manual weed control was too expensive and dangerous for highway workers. Annual spraying would save the state $50,000 to $60,000 in comparison to hand weeding. Unfortunately, it took the death (an actual, not a potential) of a highway worker to get this ban overturned. Despite this fact, eight state legislators asked the highway commissioner to reinstate the ban.

A similar wake-up call is happening with West Nile virus (WNV). Again, it is a case where WNV deaths have actually occurred (94 deaths as of September 2002), and pesticides have come to the rescue.

Canada recently placed bans, partial bans and severe restrictions on what they termed “cosmetic pesticides” (those for ornamental uses). 2,4-D and MCPP have been partially banned in Halifax, Nova Scotia and completely banned in Shediac, New Brunswick and Perth, Ontario. Quebec and Toronto have restricted the use of ornamental pesticides as well. We'll see how long it takes for these bans to be lifted after the pests come back to bite them.

Before we decide that pesticide bans are the way to go in addressing the potential risks, we should seriously consider the consequences of these bans. Saving lives seems to be a reason to keep them around until we find a better alternative.

Pesticides are not the only tools we use in professional grounds care that face bans. Grounds care equipment, specifically blowers, are banned and restricted in particular communities as well. Learn about how these restrictions can affect your bottom line in our cover story, “Overblown?,”

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