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Terrorists give pesticides a bad name

In recent attacks, Palestinian suicide bombers may have laced their bombs with chemicals, possibly pesticides, according to Israel's Health Ministry. It wasn't confirmed which chemical residues were detected, or even if it was deliberate. However, using pesticides in bombs is known to have occurred as early as 1994.

Awareness of the potential for using pesticides as weapons is prompting actions here at home. For example, Florida lawmakers in December voted to require the state's ag department to devise rules to increase the security of pesticides. Also in Florida, criminal laws against poisoning now include attacks on reservoirs and other drinking water supplies.

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The 2002 International Lawn, Garden and Power Equipment Expo will feature a competition, sponsored by Walker Mowers, for mower operators. Contestants will maneuver mowers through an obstacle course, and the top scorers will advance to the finals. The winner will be crowned the National Champion Walker Operator and enjoy a five-day vacation for two in Colorado.

The Expo will be held July 19-21, 2002, in Louisville, Ky. For more information, call 800-558-8767 or visit expo.mow.org.

Retailers branching out

The Home Depot has announced it is teaming up with ServiceMaster to test the sale of a wide range of co-branded residential maintenance and repair services to its retail customer base.

A pilot program will be launched in three test markets early this year. During the pilot program, the new co-branded services will be offered in approximately 30 stores. The services will include (among other things) Home Depot-TruGreen landscaping, lawn care and tree/shrub services, and Home Depot-Terminix termite and pest control services

Pursuing a similar market, Lowes has begun offering equipment brands such as Husqvarna and Cub Cadet, as well as equipment repair services.

Rabbit fever hits landscapers

Rabbit fever, also known as pneumonic tularemia, was occurring at higher-than-usual rates on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts last year. Scientists who studied the phenomenon reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that lawn mowing and brush cutting may be risk factors for the disease.

The illness is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which occurs in water, soil, ticks and animals. Typically, 100 to 200 cases occur annually in the United States each year. However, on Martha's Vineyard alone, the disease sickened 11 people in 2000. One of the victims died. Half of the victims were professional landscapers and most had used a lawn mower or brush cutter in the weeks prior to the illness.

Kennedy compares pesticides to terrorism

In a statement released Nov. 27, 2001, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy attacked pesticides in particularly vitriolic fashion. Comparing pesticide use to chemical and biological terrorism, Kennedy stated that, “In recent weeks, the nation has been gripped by the fear of biological and chemical attack. But every day in schools across the nation, children are exposed to dangerous pesticides that can make them sick.” Kennedy went on to vow that, “We cannot allow schools to be chemical death traps for our children.”

The statements were in reference to SEPA — the School Environmental Protection Act. To the objection of some environmentalists, the Act recognized the value of a sound school IPM program that includes pesticide use in and around schools. Trumpeted as a rare compromise, SEPA passed both the house and senate, but was eventually removed from the education bill.

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