Back to Resources

Pesticide, Herbicide and Synthetic Fertilizer use in Cities

posted on Thu, Aug 1 2013 12:00 am by Northern Region

A city council member seeking to address use of pesticide, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers in the context of a comprehensive city planning process  recently contacted the local health officer, who came to the Network for more information.

The Network researched the topic and compiled evidence that agricultural chemicals are associated with a number of health complications. For example:

  • An article in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that pesticides were the ninth most common substance reported to poison control centers and that 45 percent of all reports of pesticide poisoning involve children.
  • A study by the University of Michigan showed improvement in water quality after a ban on lawn fertilizers in Ann Arbor.
  • The President’s Cancer Panel report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, found that exposure to pesticides has been associated with many types of cancer.

The Network’s research revealed that many states have laws that preempt local governments from regulating pesticide use.  For example, the requestor’s state of Wisconsin, state law provides that a political subdivision such as a city, village, town or county generally may not prohibit the use of or regulate pesticides, except on land owned by the political subdivision.  Thus, the city would be free to reduce or eliminate use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides on land owned by the city. The Network found that local governments are not barred from regulating use of fertilizer in Wisconsin, and that Wisconsin state law restricts application of turf fertilizer that is labeled as containing phosphorus or available phosphate.

Need more information? Ask a question.