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Marc Elrich

Councilmember

Councilmember Marc Elrich

News and Initiatives

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Legislation to address pesticide exposure is an important step toward protecting public health and the environment.

Below Councilmember Elrich lays out many of the public health, environmental and policy reasons that explain the importance of and need for the recently passed Bill 52-14, which restricts the use of pesticides on lawns, playgrounds and children’s facilities.  

1. We cannot count on the federal government to act.  The actions of federal regulatory agencies do not keep pace with scientific findings.  We have acted at the County level before without waiting for federal action – we banned transfat, coal tar, and smoking in many places, and required menu labelling.  We are leading the way on addressing the impact of fumes from idling cars on nearby individuals. 

2. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not even follow its existing regulations and procedures. Just last month a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to withdraw its approval of a pesticide, sulfoxaflor because its approval was based on “flawed and limited data”. [1]  According to the court, EPA had not followed their own guidelines in approving this neonictinoid. [2]

3. Businesses recognize and are responding to concern about chemicals.  There is now a recognition that even if the federal government allows chemicals to be used, it does not mean that they are safe. Target has a list of more than 600 substances it wants removed from its products and Walmart has a list of more than 1000 chemicals. [3]

4. Inaction has its own potentially enormous costs. “Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely costs the European Union… $209 billion a year in actual health care expenses and lost earning potential, according to a new series of studies published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism….In the EU, researchers found the biggest cost driver was loss of IQ and intellectual disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to pesticides containing organophosphates. [4]

5. Precautionary action is supported by the science.  One of the most powerful research reports is the Kaiser mother-daughter study released this summer.  An excerpt of a the Washington Post article explains the study and its findings.

“Banned by the United States in 1972, the insecticide DDT is best known as the impetus for the modern environmental movement. Since Rachel Carson's bestseller "Silent Spring" sounded the alarm about the poisonous effects of the chemical on wildlife, the environment and human health, numerous studies have linked it to birth defects, miscarriage and reduced fertility.

“Its role in cancer has been less clear. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies DDT as a "probable" carcinogen. Roughly three dozen studies have been published about DDT and breast cancer risk for women who lived during its peak use in the 1950s, but a 2014 meta-analysis of that research found that there was no significant association between exposure and breast cancer risk.

They may have been looking at the wrong generation of women….

“The researchers found that elevated levels of DDT in the mother's blood were associated with almost a four-fold increase in her daughter's risk of breast cancer and that this was independent of the mother's history of breast cancer. They also determined that those with higher levels of exposure were diagnosed with more advanced breast cancer.

“Barbara A. Cohn, one of the study's authors and the director of Child Health and Development Studies at the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, Calif., said the 54-year study is ‘the first to provide direct evidence that chemical exposures for pregnant women may have lifelong consequences for their daughters' breast cancer risk.’” [Emphases added.] [5]

We did not ban DDT in 1972 because of human health impacts; we banned it because it was endangering our national bird, the bald eagle.  If we had waited for the proof that DDT caused cancer, it would have been used for 40 additional years, and many more women would have been at increased risk for breast cancer. 

I voted for this legislation because I did not want to look back in 20 years and say that we could have acted. 

The Science on Pesticide Exposure

Children are particularly vulnerable.   Dr. Phillip Landrigan, Professor of Pediatrics, Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Dean for Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explained that children are at much greater risk from chemical exposure.  “[I]nfants and children [are] at increased risk for harmful effects of pesticide exposures, which may be permanent and irreversible.” 

Research shows an association for the following:

  • Childhood cancers – leukemia and brain tumors [6] , [7]
  • Breast cancer [8]
  • Non-hodgkins Lymphoma [9]
  • Birth malformations [10]
  • Parkinsons [11]
  • Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis [12]
  • Attention problems, decreased IQ [13]
  • Respiratory symptoms [14]

More recent science about chemical exposure is showing that low-doses can have significant impact and that low-doses of multiple exposures of chemicals may contribute to cancer development.  “Cancer does not develop all at once. It happens through a series of mutations and genetic changes that collectively transform normal cells into aggressive cancer cells – the “multiple hits” model. Many chemicals that can interfere with individual cancer-related processes are not complete carcinogens, but exposure to combinations of these substances could interfere with multiple cancer-related processes, overwhelm the body’s defense mechanisms, and result in cancer. “ [15]

The active ingredient in commonly used weedkiller RoundUp, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic.”  The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified, glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, in Group 2a, “probably carcinogenic to humans.”  The only classification higher than “probably carcinogenic” is Group 1, “carcinogenic to humans.”

Lower doses of pesticides are linked to antibiotic resistance.  A study published earlier this year links Dicamba, 2,4-D and glyphosate (the active ingredient in RoundUp) to increased antiobiotic resistance. [16]

The weed killer, Atrazine, has been found in our drinking water. The New York Times reports that “new research suggests that atrazine may be dangerous at lower concentrations than previously thought. Recent studies suggest that, even at concentrations meeting current federal standards, the chemical may be associated with birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems…[17]

Environmental Impacts of Pesticide Use

“The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS),…conducted a groundwater-quality investigation … in the shallow groundwater underlying the Anacostia River and Rock Creek watersheds in Washington, D.C… Twenty-seven pesticide compounds, reflecting at least 19 different types of pesticides, were detected in the groundwater samples...The presence of banned and restricted-use pesticides illustrates their continued persistence and resistance to complete degradation in the environment. The presence of the replacement pesticides indicates the susceptibility of the surficial aquifer to contamination irrespective of the changes in the pesticides used. [18]

Canada’s pesticide ban resulted in a dramatic reduction in pesticides in the water.

One year after the pesticide ban in Canada, concentrations of three pesticides: 2,4-D, dicamba and mecoprop in urban stream water were significantly lower.  Median concentrations decreased by 81% for 2,4-D, 83% for dicamba and 71% for mecoprop. [19]


[1] Pollinator Stewardship Council, et al. v. US EPA, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 13-72346, Filed September 10, 2015, page 2. http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2015/09/10/13-72346.pdf

[2] Ibid. pg. 13

[3] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-28/target-expands-list-of-chemicals-it-wants-out-of-consumer-goods

[4] https://www.endocrine.org/news-room/current-press-releases/estimated-costs-of-endocrine-disrupting-chemical-exposure-exceed-150-billion-annually-in-eu

[5]Startling link between pregnant mother’s exposure to DDT and daughter’s risk of breast cancer,” by Arianna Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, 6/17/15. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/06/16/ddts-breast-cancer-legacy-pregnant-mothers-exposure-linked-to-four-fold-increase-in-daughters-risk/

[6] Pesticide Exposure in Children, Policy Statement, American Academy of Pediatrics, originally published November 26, 2012, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/6/e1765.full.pdf pg. e1773.

[7] “Residential Exposure to Pesticide During Childhood and Childhood Cancers: A Meta-Analysis,” Pediatrics, published online September 14, 2015.  In a phone interview October 1, 2015, with Chensheng Lu, the lead researcher, Dr. Lu noted that for outdoor pesticides, there was a positive association but the number of studies reviewed was small.

[8] “Reported Residential Pesticide Use and Breast Cancer Risk on Long Island, NY,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 2007; 165:643-651.

[9] “Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Leah Schinasi and Maria E. Leon, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 4/23/14.

[10] “Birth malformations and other adverse perinatal outcomes in four U.S. Wheat-producing states.” by Dina M Schreinemachers, Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Jul; 111(9): 1259–1264.

[11] “Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity,” by Philippe Grandjean, Philip Landrigan, thelancet.com, Vol 13, March 2014, pg. 31

[12] “Pesticide Use Linked to Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis,” by Jan Ehrman, NIH Record, March 18, 2011.

[13] http://news.berkeley.edu/2010/08/19/pesticide/ and testimony submitted by Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, PhD, MS, Assistant Professor , University of Maryland School of Public Health Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, January 12, 2015.

[14] Testimony submitted by Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, PhD, MS, Assistant Professor , University of Maryland School of Public Health Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, January 12, 2015.

[15] http://www.ewg.org/research/rethinking-carcinogens/halifax-project-complete-vs-partial-carcinogens

[16] “Sublethal Exposure to Commercial Formulations of the Herbicides Dicamba, 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid, and Glyphosate Cause Changes in Antibiotic Susceptibility in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar, Typhimurium”, Mbio, American Society of Microbiology, Published March 24, 2015.   http://mbio.asm.org/content/6/2/e00009-15

[17] “Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass,” by Charles Duhigg, New York Times, 8/23/09.

[18] Pesticides in Groundwater in the Anacostia River and Rock Creek Watersheds in Washington, D.C., 2005 and 2008, by Michael T. Koterba, Cheryl A. Dieter, and Cherie V. Miller, USGS, Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5130. ations Report 2010–5130

[19] “Pesticide Concentrations in Ontario’s Urban Streams One Year after the Cosmetic Pesticides Ban,” IPM Symposium, 1/10/11, Aaron Todd, Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Buffers from mega gas stations needed for public health

Councilmember Elrich is pleased to be joined by his colleagues Roger Berliner, Tom Hucker, Sidney Katz, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer in sponsoring his zoning text amendment (ZTA 15-07) that would prohibit mega gas stations within 500 feet of schools, residences, parks, day care, and environmentally sensitive areas., “Mega gas stations present a risk to the public health and general welfare of individuals nearby, and our existing law does not reflect the current scientific understanding that highlights a public health concern.  Numerous, peer-reviewed scientific studies document links between vehicle emissions and asthma, impaired lung function, and heart disease.”

“The scientific evidence clearly highlights a public health concern.  As this understanding has evolved we, as public officials have an obligation to ensure that our laws reflect the current knowledge base. In other words, once we know something, we can’t not know it. We must act.”  In 2012, Councilmember Elrich led the successful effort to prohibit their siting within 300 feet of certain of these entities.

To view the text of ZTA 15-07, go to 2015 Zoning Text Amendments

To listen to the testimony from the public hearing (held on May 12):

Common-sense remedies for tenants

Councilmember Elrich has introduced bill 19-15 to implement many of the recommendations of the Tenant Work Group, where he represented the Council and worked with the County Executive, State Senator Jamie Raskin and diverse representatives of the tenant community. Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Tom Hucker are co-sponsors of the legislation to bring “common-sense reforms to tenant laws.

“I have long been interested in promoting strategies to preserve affordable housing and provide some security for renters,” Councilmember Elrich said. “These proposed reforms are first steps toward improving the quality of life for tenants, who now are about one-third of the county population.”

The legislation would increase inspections of certain residential rental properties; require the use of a standard lease; require the collection and publication of accurate information related to vacancies and rent increases; reduce notification requirements for tenants facing too-high rent increases and ban month-to-month “surcharges.”

To view the text of the legislation: Public Hearing: Bill 19-15, Landlord -Tenant Relations - Licensing of RentalHousing Landlord-Tenant Obligations

To listen to the testimony from the public hearing (held on June 18)

Council passes another fiscal year 2016 budget

The Montgomery County Council adopted a $5.08 billion total County operating budget for Fiscal Year 2016. The budget, which will take effect July 1, reflects a 1.7 percent increase over the approved budget for FY 2015. The Council also approved amendments to the Fiscal Years 2015-20 six-year Capital Improvements Program.

Councilmember Elrich thanked the County Executive “for sending the Council a recommended budget that reflects our collective values.” He also expressed his appreciation that he and his Council colleagues worked together on this “hold-the-line” budget. “While we would have liked to do more, we understand that we have budgetary constraints,” he explained.

“As chair of the Public Safety Committee, I was pleased that we could maintain a decent level of services, and I am appreciative of our Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, which does so much to rehabilitate people so that they can be integrated into the community, with jobs, after they leave.  I am glad we were able to fund the schools, but I regret that we are facing another year of class size increase. We will have to tackle this issue in the future. On childcare, living wages and energy efficiency, we have made a commitment to provide for enforcement so that our intentions in these areas can be realized. And, I am glad we were able to restore some hours to the recreation centers and libraries, which were hit hard during the economic crisis. 

“As the County Executive said, ‘We are facing some major challenges,’ and yet, through a strong co-operative effort by all of us, we were able to produce a good budget.”

To view a brief video of comments by Councilmember Elrich about the budget:

To view many details of the budget: Budget Updates

The energy tax and its budgetary impact

Video on Councilmember Marc Elrich on Fuel/Energy Tax Rate

In this video, Councilmember Elrich discusses why the energy tax is an important way to raise money from entities that pay no other taxes to support the work in Montgomery County.  He points out that Virginia has a substantial gross receipts tax that targets only the business community, and that the energy tax is progressive, by providing a disincentive to increasing energy use and reducing the need for increased property tax revenues, which only hit businesses and residences.

“Ban the Box”: an important step to level the playing field

Reform of our prison system and putting people to work have been two important themes nationally.  In Montgomery County, we have taken a step in the right direction by giving former prisoners a fair chance at job applications through “ban-the-box” legislation.  This law delays the point at which most potential employers can ask an applicant about a criminal background so that qualified applicants have an opportunity to make their case. It will not force an employer to hire someone, but will give them a chance to learn about someone they may not have otherwise considered. 

“This bill is about opportunity. We invest a lot of resources in rehabilitating those who pass through our criminal justice system and it is in all of our best interests for them to succeed,” said Councilmember Elrich.

“Gainful employment reduces recidivism, helps people support their families and pull themselves out of poverty. To eliminate someone from consideration for a job—someone who may be an excellent candidate—before the process even begins, is unfair to the applicant and may be robbing the employer of the most qualified applicant.”

“I am grateful to my original co-sponsor, (former Councilmember) Cherri Branson, for her hard work and advocacy; to our co-sponsors, Councilmembers Nancy Navarro, Hans Riemer and Craig Rice, and to the supporting organizations, the Job Opportunities Task Force, the NAACP, Jews United for Justice, and CASA. Special thanks also to my friend and colleague, Roger Berliner, for constructively guiding the discussion in committee,” said Councilmember Elrich.

For more information about the bill, Click here.

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