The City Council of Irvine, California unanimously passed a resolution in February to stop spraying hazardous chemicals such as Roundup (glyphosate) and 2,4-D on public parks, playgrounds and streets—adopting an organic management policy instead. PTA officer Kathleen Hallal coordinated a team called Non Toxic Irvine that secured the ban.
Hallal, mother to three boys with autoimmune disorders, learned about links between glyphosate and health risks including brain cancer, present in her community at levels higher than the national average. When glyphosate was labeled a probable carcinogen by WHO, it helped the initiative gain support from the PTA presidents, then the school district, and finally from the city council.
“The members are all concerned for their families as well,” Hallal said. “People think that because something is sold at Home Depot it’s safe to use. The eye-opener for me was discovering that the EPA’s job isn’t to ensure safety—but to decide what’s an acceptable risk. Big difference.”
Maintenance workers are trained by chemical companies to be “experts” in using the toxic chemicals carefully. Landscapers have been falsely convinced that chemical methods are the only viable methods, Hallal said, and that without using them their landscaping will look terrible. In fact, the opposite is true.
“People need to be shown proof that organic methods do work,” she said. “There is an enormous opportunity for maintenance companies to stand out from the crowd here. Those offering organic products and services can’t even handle the demand. The trick, I think, was bringing a solution, a proven alternative practice, to the table.”
Beyond Pesticides has given Irvine a grant to have Chip Osborne, of Osborne Organics, train a large group of landscapers from neighboring cities, schools and private companies in safe, effective practices.
Non Toxic Irvine has a board with prestigious professors and scientists, bolstering their legitimacy. Soon they will announce an initiative to share their success with other cities, schools and homeowners’ associations across the country. For more information, visit their website, nontoxicirvine.org.