Residents told of herbicide alternatives

Lawn care official addresses concerns

March 15, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

The president of one of the largest natural lawn care companies in the United States said yesterday that alternatives are available for people concerned about using chemical pesticides on their lawns.

A group of residents in the Howard County community of Aspenwood recently initiated a petition because of concerns about the possible effects of herbicide spraying on their yards.

Some have asked their homeowners board, which oversees the more than 200 townhouses in the Jessup community, to consider alternative methods to spraying.

Philip E. Catron, president and chief executive officer of NaturaLawn of America, said several environmentally friendly products can be used to keep lawns attractive.

In addition to natural fertilizers and natural pest-control products on the market, such as WOW! Plus, Catron said household supplies such as Clorox and soap mixed with water can be used as pesticides.

His company uses organically based products to battle weeds and pests, he said, not chemical pesticides.

NaturaLawn does not serve the Aspenwood community.

"We try to help the soil and plants to live in harmony," Catron said. "At the same time, we are trying to minimize what we put out in the environment."

Catron -- whose company is based in Frederick and has 43 locations in 17 states -- said his customers consist of residents such as those in the Aspenwood community who worry about the effects of spraying.

His clients also include people who are sensitive to the chemicals used in pesticides, and those interested in alternative lawn care, he said.

"We are seeing a trend here of people waking up and saying, `I think that picture-perfect, weed-free, green-all-year-round lawn is a myth,' " said Catron, whose company has about 400 employees serving about 45,000 customers.

"I think that 80 percent of our customers want a nice lawn but also want to do their part for the environment."

While no conclusive proof exists that pesticides -- a generic term for products that control insects and other pests, and include herbicides that control weeds -- pose a health threat, several studies have suggested a link between their use and cancer rates in children and dogs.

One such study was published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1995.

Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, based in Washington, said many residents want more information on the chemicals used in pesticides.

"It's a difficult problem and one we feel the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't track very well," Feldman said. "There are definitely concerns about what is being used."

Officials with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, which oversees the licensing of pesticide applicators, said lawn treatments that companies use are chemicals commonly found on the market and are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which subjects them to a battery of tests before they are sold.

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