Silver linings of regulations

On the surface, you'd think that regulations are killing our industry, but is this really so? Of course, we should be concerned, and we as an industry should voice our opinions to balance proposed broad-brush legislation to eliminate the availability of products our industry needs to control pests, help plants grow and maintain grounds. But when we look back on the history of industry-related legislation that has gone into effect, has our industry really suffered? Inconvenienced maybe, but actually put out of business? I don't think so. In fact, it seems that these regulations have spurred the introduction of new products that are improvements over what we had in the past. Consider the emissions standards and their effect on newer, more efficient engines. Also consider EPA's efforts and resultant introductions of more effective pest-control products that require lower active-ingredient rates to obtain control, turfgrass varieties that are more pest-resistant and application technology that uses global-positioning systems that make more efficient use of fertilizers and pesticides. This does not mean that the industry should become complacent and let its guard down. Like any issue debated in our society, two sides usually exist. We must hear both sides and hope that when we resolve the issue the outcome will be balanced and beneficial to society and our industry. In retrospect, regulations haven't been without benefit. Considering these points, this issue focuses on stewardship.

Introducing this issue is a two-part article--"Are regulations killing our industry?" on page 14--that examines the debates involving engine emissions and multiple chemical sensitivity. With the Clean Air Act of 1990, engine manufacturers have been required to reduce engine emissions of non-road equipment, such as that used in grounds care. Industry groups contend that this source of engine emissions accounts for a small and insignificant portion of the total emissions, which include automotive and other sources such as power plants, paint and solvents. Nevertheless, engine manufacturers are compelled to comply. The result of the regulation has led to the introduction of cleaner, more durable and also more costly engines.

Another major issue facing our industry relates to the development of a wide array of symptoms some supposedly hypersensitive individuals develop in response to pesticide exposure. Described in Part II of our article (beginning on page 20), multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is the term some have used to describe this condition. The controversy surrounding MCS centers on the fact that the mainstream medical community does not accept MCS as a valid medical condition; however, a group of clinical ecologists (which includes medical doctors and researchers), their patients and their attorneys contend that MCS is a valid medical condition and seek protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Several states have sided with the clinical ecologists and have adopted programs to register sensitive individuals and require that they be notified prior to any pesticide application. Learn more about MCS in the second part of this article on regulations.

Not to be confused with MCS, allergies are well-documented as a medical problem, and plants on and around your grounds are sometimes the culprits. The pollen produced by certain plants can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Fortunately, scientists have identified many of the plants that cause allergies. By selecting allergy-free plants and controlling allergenic plants, you can reduce allergic sources on your grounds. Find out which plants cause allergic problems and how you can control them in the article, "Reduce allergies with plant selection, maintenance" (page 96).

These articles join many others in this issue that relate to your stewardship efforts.

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