Evanston has become the first community in Illinois  to adopt a city-wide policy restricting the use of pesticides on public property.

“The City of Evanston through the passing of this resolution is attempting to set an example for the community,” explained Carl Caneva, Division Manager for the Evanston Health Department. “The resolution continues to allow the city to address public health issues as needed and calls for the city to be responsible and consider all other alternatives before applying chemicals to eliminate pests.”

The policy, adopted by the City Council April 26, initially prohibits the city from using certain classes of pesticides. Effective two years from enactment, no pesticides can be applied on city owned or leased properties. The city’s Health Department can waive these restrictions if necessary to counter a pest outbreak that poses an immediate threat. The policy includes notification requirements when pesticides are applied and annual training of relevant city staff and contractors on sustainable pest control practices.

Pesticides are linked to a variety of known adverse outcomes including cancer, reproductive problems, asthma, Parkinson’s disease and learning and behavioral problems. Children are especially vulnerable to these effects due to their small size, still-developing organs and tendency to play close to the ground and put things in their mouths. Pesticides also affect water quality as it can run off lawns into lakes and groundwater thus adversely impacting drinking water.

Alternative approaches to conventional pest management have been shown to effectively control pests. One such approach is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a technique that addresses the underlying causes of pest problems and gives preference to the safest pest control methods. Such techniques also often cost less over the long run than routine spraying. The City of Evanston staff has been trained in IPM techniques.

According to a 2007 report by the Washington, D.C. based advocacy organization Beyond Pesticides, ten states require or recommend the use of IPM on state property and at least 125 local governments around the country have IPM ordinance or policies already in place. Toronto, Canada has banned the use of lawn pesticides for cosmetic purposes on all property, both public and private, due to health risk concerns.

Evanston staff in the Health Department and Forestry Division worked with outside organizations to assess the city’s pesticide use and a subsequent proposed policy which was adopted by the City Council.

Outreach efforts will be a focus under the new policy. The city will kick off a natural lawn care demonstration site at Stockham Park, to include educational signage informing residents and visitors about how natural lawn care works. The hope is that this will be the first of several of city parks involved in a natural lawn care program. 

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