Councilmembers Urge Montgomery County Hospitals to Cease Pesticide Use

Two Montgomery County Councilmembers are urging hospitals in the county to voluntarily stop using pesticides.Blades of grass

Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal, who chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, and Councilmember Roger Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, wrote to the leaders of the five organizations that operate hospitals in Montgomery County and asked them to voluntarily stop using pesticides on the grounds of their respective facilities.

The Council is currently considering Bill 52-14 that would limit the use of non-essential pesticides on county lawns, certain athletic playing fields and County-owned public grass areas. Leventhal is the lead sponsor of that bill.

“We are writing today to ask that hospitals in our County assume a leading role in increasing awareness of the health concerns regarding pesticides by voluntarily agreeing to eliminate their use on hospital grounds,” wrote the councilmembers in the letter to the hospitals. “As you know, in 2013, Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park ceased using insecticides or herbicides in advance of the Takoma Park City Council passing its ordinance restricting pesticide use. We believe it is time for every hospital to take a similar stance.”

The letters were sent to Terry Forde, the President and CEO of Adventist Healthcare; Gene Green, President of Suburban Hospital; Peter Monge, President of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center; Kevin Sexton, President and CEO of Holy Cross Health; and Kurt Newman, President of Children’s National Health System.

Ronna Borenstein, Suburban Hospital’s senior director of communications, said that hospital received the request and are “researching a response” to provide the council with “accurate feedback.”

Tom Grant, spokesman for Adventist HealthCare, sent MyMCMedia the following reaction, “We are happy to talk with the other hospitals to see how we all might implement this request, as we did in Takoma Park with Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital.”

You can read the complete text of the letter from the councilmembers below:

May 11, 2015

As you may be aware, the Montgomery County Council is currently considering a range of measures that would, if adopted, significantly reduce the use of pesticides in our County. This effort is driven in large part by concerns that have been raised by the medical community about the potential negative impacts of exposure to pesticides on human health.

There are strong signals from leading medical professionals that there is a fundamental need to reduce the amount of pesticides to which individuals are exposed. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that

“Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity. Acute poisoning risks are clear, and understanding of chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems.”

Earlier this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate, a commonly used pesticide, was “probably carcinogenic.”

We are writing today to ask that hospitals in our County assume a leading role in increasing awareness of the health concerns regarding pesticides by voluntarily agreeing to eliminate their use on hospital grounds. As you know, in 2013, Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park ceased using insecticides or herbicides in advance of the Takoma Park City Council passing its ordinance restricting pesticide use. We believe it is time for every hospital to take a similar stance.

Regardless of how broader questions about pesticide regulation are resolved by our Council, your taking this step would help to reduce pesticide exposure for some of our most vulnerable residents, and more broadly, would increase awareness in our community as to its potential harmful effects.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.

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Krista Brick

About Krista Brick

Krista Brick is a multi-media journalist with Montgomery Community Media.

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