Why is Pesticide Notification Important?
New Yorkers are becoming increasingly concerned about the impacts of pesticides on human health and natural resources. Pesticides are chemical or biological substances designed to kill, control or repel a variety of living organisms, such as insects (insecticides), weeds (herbicides), mold or fungus (fungicides) and rodents (rodenticides). They are poisons, and their use is regulated by both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The fact that a pesticide is registered by the EPA does not mean that it is safe; it simply means that standards have been established to minimize the risks associated with its use. Many widely-used pesticides were registered many years ago under less stringent standards than are used today. They can pose health risks, even when used and applied in full compliance with manufacturers' recommendations and legal requirements.
Large amounts of pesticides are being applied every year in New York. In 1998, DEC reported that 4.5 million gallons and 29.4 million pounds of pesticides were applied by commercial applicators and sold to farmers statewide. To find out the quantity and types of pesticides used in a particular county you can access the state database at the Cornell website: http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu
Several pesticides commonly used in lawn care are classified as probable or possible carcinogens by the EPA. Some of these and other pesticides are associated with a variety of other health problems including damage to the liver, kidneys, and nervous and endocrine systems, and acute skin irritation and respiratory distress. Infants and young children, whose body systems are still developing, are particularly susceptible to these risks, as are pregnant women and the elderly and infirm. Inadvertent exposure to pesticides can occur when they are applied without notice on neighboring properties, or in apartment buildings, schools or daycare centers. To limit the likelihood of inadvertent exposure and the resulting health risks, a number of state laws now require that individuals be notified when pesticides are being applied in these areas.
Since the 1980's, commercial pesticide applicators have been subject to certain contractual and notification requirements. (See section below entitled "Other Requirements for Commercial Applications of Pesticides.") "Commercial applicators" includes all businesses and individuals who apply pesticides for hire, such as lawn care companies, exterminators and groundskeepers. They are distinguished from "residential" applications, where an individual applies pesticides to his or her own residence or grounds. Agricultural pesticide applications are exempt from state pesticide notification requirements. In 2000, after many years of public debate, legislation was enacted (chapter 285 of the Laws of 2000) requiring notice of pesticide applications in schools and daycare centers, and providing counties with the option of requiring advance notification to neighbors before both commercial and residential applications of lawn care pesticides.