As spring bulbs bravely make their way out of the ground at the start of a new season, we know that other, less welcome signs of spring are probably not far behind. Those bright yellow pesticide application flags that sprout on neighborhood lawns and playing fields around Port Washington this time of year are sober reminders that emerging science linking pesticides with serious health problems for humans and pets (not to mention water contamination and environmental degradation) has not yet reached the public's radar screen.

There's no longer much dispute among environmental toxicologists or medical experts about the potential harm that pesticide exposure can have on humans, particularly children. The simple fact is that kids and pesticides don't mix. Asthma, certain types of cancers, birth defects, reproductive and neuro-developmental problems (all of which are on the rise) have all been associated with exposure to these chemicals.

Pesticides are also potentially harmful to pets, who roll in the grass and groom themselves by licking their paws and fur. A National Cancer Institute study showed that dogs whose owners treated their lawns with 2,4-D herbicide (usually the "weed" part of those popular "weed-and-feed" products) four or more times per year, were twice as likely to suffer from canine lymphoma.

And of course, Port Washington sits on a big sandbar, surrounded on three sides by water, filled with marine life. The pesticides we put on our lawns and fields, besides being dangerous for people and pets, eventually end up either filtering into our aquifers or running off into our bay, harbor and sound.

So it's deeply troubling, to say the least, to see well-meaning homeowners and turf managers applying pesticides (or paying other people to do it for them), when it's both harmful and unnecessary. The fastest growing segment of the green industry today is organic lawn care. Many companies make organic products for homeowners, and there are several landscaping companies right here in Port who are able and willing to develop and maintain lush, beautiful lawns without pesticides. (For a list of organic Long Island landscapers, visit www.ghlp.org).

In the national effort to make our communities "greener," we need to re-examine some of the old ways we've been doing things. Lawn pesticides are an old idea whose time has passed. Now that we know more about pesticides, it's time to move on. For the sake of our children, our pets and our environment, I urge all Port residents to help make our town a safer, healthier and more environmentally friendly place by kicking the lawn pesticide habit.

Doug Wood

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