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February 5, 2010

4th grader wows scientists with her artificial vs. natural turf
research study

As you may know many thousands of acres of plastic tufted carpet with pulverized tires between the tufts (aka "artificial or synthetic turf) have been installed on a thick base of rocks after removal of tons of soil, all over the US. Many concerns have been raised about the health and safety of both these plastic/rubber fields and the conventionally maintained grass fields they usually replaced (both environmental and physical health).
This is an ambitious study (110 samples from 5 natural and 5 artificial turf fields throughout a year) by a scientist at the University of CA- Santa Cruz and the fourth grade soccer-playing student who inspired it, to look at contaminants in run-off from both natural and artificial turf fields- both types have environmental problems ( phosphates and nitrogen from natural turf fields- which can be eliminated as she notes by using organic and sustainable practices ; the leachate from all the artificial turf fields she tested had much higher levels of the other contaminants she tested for: zinc, copper, cobalt, cadmium.) Since unlike the external applications of fertilizers to natural turf fields which can be eliminated, the artificial turf contaminants are integral to the synthetic plastic/rubber rug fields and so they cannot be eliminated unless they use totally different materials for the artificial turf. Only run-off from artificial turf run-off killed the aquatic organism, Daphnia some of which in a stunning photo are also shown to have ingested pellets (answering one of the questions we have asked about the hazards of these pellets when they enter an aquatic ecosystem).
Many of us have been advocating for organic maintenance of natural turf fields and, as is done in many states, capture and reuse of stormwater for irrigation as needed. So Clair's studies help to add fuel to the argument for 21st century sustainable, state of the art natural turf fields are the answer to conventionally installed and maintained grass NOT artificial turf with its own substantial known and as yet unknown problems.
It would be great to correspond with Claire and Dr. Payton to get all the details. Follow up studies might be done comparing natural turf fields organically maintained. Of interest also would be if any differences were detected (or if the protocol could detect) changes in contaminant levels with temperature.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
4th grader wows scientists with her artificial vs. natural turf research study
Which is more environmentally friend, artificial grass or living grass?
Schools and communities across the United States are debating the issue because of the growing popularity of synthetic turf on sports fields, home lawns and other areas formerly covered by turfgrass. Proponents of both point to the many “green” benefits of their respective type of grass. The stakes, environmental and financial, are high because of the tens of millions of acres of turfgrass on our home lawns, parks, sports fields, commercial and industrial properties.
So, who’s right? The synthetic crowd that pounds on the fact that their grass doesn’t need fertilizers, pesticides, mowing or water? (Although it would be foolish to install synthetic turf without a ready source of water to clean it or, in the case of sports fields, cool it.) Or the proponents of real, living grass who promote the heat-mitigating, dust-capturing, runoff-capturing benefits of real grass?
Along comes 9-year-old, 4th grade student by the name of Claire Dworsky and she nails it. With the help of research professor Adina Payton of UC Santa Cruz, she puts together an incredible research project comparing the two surfaces.
“ As I soccer player and environmentalist, I looked down and I see the runoff water off the turf is murky,” Claire told KGO-TV science reporter Carolyn Johnson in a recent interview. Claire collected water samples from grass and artificial turf fields (hundreds of them from both) across San Francisco, then she and Dr. Payton analyzed the findings in the lab.

February 5, 2010
Lawn care firms seek legal action; They say Ontario's cosmetic pesticide ban is contradictory and not based on science

A firm that represents lawn care companies is trying to bring charges against the Ontario Environment Minister over the province's cosmetic pesticide ban that was implemented last year.
Jeffrey Lowes, who runs a Kingston-based consulting firm representing lawn care companies, filed a "private information" legal manoeuvre in Kingston Provincial Court last week against Environment Minister John Gerretsen and five of his top bureaucrats at the environment department.
His legal filing is a sworn allegation made before a Judge or Justice of the Peace that suggests some kind of offense has been committed.
Lowes said last week his filing alleges the environment minister and his bureaucrats failed to "exercise their assigned fiduciary responsibilities by not taking reasonable care to ensure that the Ministry of Environment complies with the Pest Control Products Act and its regulations and did thereby commit an offence contrary to section 70 subsection 2 of the Pest Control Products Act."
The Pest Control Products Act is the federal legislation that governs pesticide products in Canada. Lowes alleges the Ontario's government cosmetic pesticide ban has resulted in serious violations of sections of the federal law governing pesticide products.
He pointed to an organic pesticide called Neemoil that is approved for use in Ontario by the provincial government. That product, used to control lawn pests, contains an active ingredient called Azadirchtin that is not approved for use by federal regulators.
He said if lawn applicators use the organic product they are violating federal regulations. If they use federally approved pesticide products they will violate Ontario regulations.
" What we are saying is the industry is stuck between the two. There is something fundamentally wrong with the system."
He said the Ontario government's cosmetic pesticide ban, which went into effect in April, 2008, is based on methodology and information that has no scientific rigour to support it.
The action taken by Lowes has to be endorsed by the Provincial Court before it can proceed. If that happens it could result in federal charges being filed against Gerretsen and others in the environment department by police or by a private individual.
Lowes expects to be back in court on Feb. 17 for a hearing.
Lowes said lawn care companies generated $1.26 billion in revenues providing lawn care services in Ontario in 2007. He said the industry used to provide almost 21,000 jobs but a least a third of those jobs are now gone as a result of the province's cosmetic pesticide ban.
He said up to 10 per cent of lawn care businesses will not reopen in Ontario in 2010 and a further 20 to 30 per cent are facing bankruptcy.

December 16, 2009
Congressional Hispanic Caucus sets its sights on comprehensive immigration and H-2B reform

On December 15, 2009, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and several other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus held a press conference to introduce the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR-ASAP) Act of 2009 (H.R. 4321 ). The bill contains problematic H-2B provisions along the lines of those proposed in past legislation introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

A summary of the bill includes the following statements about the H-2B program:
The H-2B visa program is reformed to prevent the exploitation of H-2B non-immigrant workers and the depression of wages as well as other workplace abuses committed by exploitative employers. Reforms to the program include:
* Imposing stricter requirements for recruitment of American workers.
* Preventing employers from participating in the program if they have conducted a mass layoff in the past year.
* Strengthening worker protections.
This legislation would also give the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States immediate legal status and a path to earned citizenship if they register with the government and attest “to contributions to the United States” through employment, education, military service, or other volunteer service. They would also be required to complete a criminal and security background check and pay a $500 fine plus application fees.

The bill also includes AgJOBS and would give children of undocumented workers an accelerated path to citizenship. In addition, it would create a Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets to determine the future flow of foreign workers into the United States. The commission would recommend to Congress and the White House appropriate methods for determining levels of employment-based immigration visas. Rather than creating a non-seasonal temporary worker program, the bill would allow 100,000 visas to be issued through a lottery and also includes provisions related to employee verification and border security

Congressional leaders continue to state that Congress will focus on immigration reform early next year. Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are working on a Senate version of the bill. Discussions are also occurring in the House but are not as far along as those in the Senate.

PLANET continues to be engaged with lawmakers and various coalitions to promote reasonable immigration reform that addresses the needs of seasonal employers. Check out statements on the Gutierrez bill from the H-2B Workforce Coalition, of which PLANET is a member. This bill affects all companies that use H-2B workers and those that have employees who may not have supplied legal employment paperwork to employers. H.R. 4321 is 644 pages long and will take more time to review. We will inform you if any coordinated action is planned.

Tom Delaney
Director of Government Affairs
Professional Landcare Network (PLANET)
(800) 395-2522
(703) 736-9668 (fax)


December 10, 2009

EPA Releases Final Specification for WaterSense New Homes

This will help homeowners increase water efficiency and save on their utility bills

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final WaterSense single-family new homes specification today, creating the first national, voluntary, water-efficiency specification for an entire new home.

“ Home builders can now partner with EPA and earn the WaterSense label for their newly built homes, helping to create livable communities and quality homes that are easy to maintain,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “These homes will save homeowners as much as $200 a year on utility bills compared to their current homes.”

EPA worked with hundreds of stakeholders over the past three years to develop this specification, which was designed to complement existing green building programs. WaterSense labeled new homes, which will be 20 percent more efficient than typical new homes, must be independently inspected and certified by an EPA licensed certification provider to meet the WaterSense criteria for water efficiency and performance.

The new homes will feature WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures, Energy Star qualified appliances (if installed), water-efficient landscaping, and hot water delivery systems that deliver hot water faster, so homeowners don’t waste water—or energy—waiting at the tap.

By investing in WaterSense labeled homes, American home buyers can reduce their water usage by more than 10,000 gallons per year—enough to fill a backyard swimming pool—and save enough energy annually to power a television for four years.

If the approximately 1.27 million new homes built in the United States each year were WaterSense labeled, it would save more than 12 billion gallons of water.

With this announcement, EPA is inviting home builders to join the WaterSense program and commit to building water-efficient new homes.

WaterSense, a partnership program sponsored by EPA, seeks to protect the future of our nation's water supply by offering people simple ways to use less water.

More information on WaterSense labeled new homes: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/spaces/new_homes.html

To see a video message about the WaterSense new homes specification: http://www.epa.gov/multimedia/playercontents/video/watersense/index.html


December 8, 2009
EPA to Strengthen Oversight of Pesticide's Impact on Children and
Farmworkers (News Release)

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to
strengthen its assessment of pesticide health risks. EPA's proposal
would include a more thorough assessment of risks to workers, including
farmworkers and farm children, as well as risks posed by pesticides that
are not used on food. The agency is asking the public to comment on the
new approach and how best to implement the improvements.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has made it a top priority to ensure
that the agency is working to protect Americans. She said: "Better
information and applying these tools will strengthen EPA's protections
for farm workers exposed to these chemicals, and children living in and
around the areas of highest possible exposure," said EPA Administrator
Lisa P. Jackson. "It's essential we have the tools to keep everyone,
especially vulnerable populations like children, safe from the serious
health consequences of pesticide exposure."

Under the policy, EPA risk assessments for children, farmworkers and
others, would consider aggregate pesticide exposures from all sources in
addition to the cumulative effects from multiple pesticides that have
similar toxicity. EPA also would apply an additional safety factor to
protect infants and children from the risks of pesticides where the
available data are incomplete. Currently these analyses help assess
risks of pesticides to the general public as required by the Federal
Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

EPA believes that pesticide exposure should be evaluated with common
scientific risk-assessment techniques, whether from residues in food or
drinking water, on lawns or in swimming pools, or in the workplace. The
agency would routinely apply the techniques to workers exposed to
pesticide exposures on the job. By incorporating these risk-assessment
tools into its pesticide evaluations, the agency would more thoroughly
protect the most vulnerable populations, including farm workers and
children taken into agricultural fields.

The proposed policy will be available for a 60-day public comment period
after it is published in the Federal Register.
More information on the proposed rule:

CONTACT: kemery.dale@epa.gov 202-564-7839; 202-564-4355

For the Spanish translation of this press release, visit