Gas Leaf Blower Noise & Pollution


A Quality Of Life And Public Health Issue

I live on a charming cul de sac in South Dover. We purchased our home last April, and I feel privileged to live in such a nice neighborhood with friendly people in a desirable location. Our neighborhood was developed starting in the nineteen eighties, and unlike newer developments today, many mature trees were left here, giving us a diverse array of birds and wildlife. My lot in particular has many native species that provide food and habitat to several species of songbirds. It is immeasurably pleasant to open windows on a nice day and listen to the sounds of woodpeckers, bluebirds, goldfinches and the like.

Unfortunately, during these warm months the peace and calm of my neighborhood is interrupted on a near daily basis, for hours at a time, and many times more than once a day. It is rare to have a day during the Spring, Summer, or Fall season that I do not hear the high decibel whine of at least one or more commercial gas leaf blowers (GLBs) being used on neighboring lots. As I write this, I am an hour and a half into listening to a landscaping crew hired by neighbors on the other side of our circle. The front of my home faces them, yet I can still hear them in the back of my home even with windows and doors shut. Now they’ve taken a break and I can hear another GLB somewhere in the neighborhood behind me as well. I must be honest, it’s incredibly irritating and distracting.

Noise Pollution


Landscape maintenance machines (mowers, leaf blowers) operate at levels up to 110 decibels – these levels far exceed the safe levels established by the World Health Organization, US Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health for the prevention of hearing loss and other adverse health effects.

I’ve observed workers operating GLBs without any hearing protection on many occasions, including employees of the city of Dover. Clearly worker health is a concern, as is that of the public. Many Dover residents work from home, work nights and sleep during the day, have young infants and toddlers who may be napping, or are disabled or convalescing from illness and so are subjected to this excessive noise, often for long periods. The crew across the way from me is now going on hour number four. Today is 70 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze. I am keeping my windows and doors closed because of the noise level. After a long New Hampshire winter, I’d prefer to have them open. I was informed by one of the staff at the Planning Department that Dover does not have any type of noise ordinance in place. Given the widespread use of GLBs and landscaping equipment from April through November, it seems reasonable that we should at the very least have some type of protection for residents subjected to these excessively high decibel levels. Noise is more than just a nuisance. Plenty of scientific research provides evidence on the relationship between environmental noise and health effects, including cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, and annoyance.

Air Pollution


In addition to the harmful decibel levels GLBs and other landscape maintenance machines create, another important concern is emissions. Gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment account for a significant portion of U.S. non road gasoline emissions that contribute to the acceleration of climate change.  The two stroke engine of a GLB has no emission control. In a two stroke engine the fuel has to be mixed with oil because it lacks an independent lubrication system. About 30 percent of the fuel the engine uses fails to undergo complete combustion. As a result the engine emits numerous air pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons. These pollutants escape from the engine in large quantities. Most of us are quite familiar with the acute effects of carbon monoxide, but the other gases are no less worrisome. Nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons both contribute to smog formation. Hydrocarbons are carcinogenic, and nitrous oxides cause acid rain. These engines also emit benzene, toluene, 1-3 butadiene, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. At least two of these are known carcinogens. GLBs According to tests conducted by Edmunds’, a consumer-grade leaf blower emits more pollutants than a 6,200-pound 2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor at has stated, “The hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Raptor. As ridiculous as it may sound, it is more ‘green’ to ditch your yard equipment and find a way to blow leaves using a Raptor.” Meanwhile, the landscaping crew is still here, six hours later. They did break for lunch at least, and to mow and use a large vacuum attachment on their truck that caused enormous plumes of brown dust to come out of the cover on the back of the truck.

Speaking of particulate matter, GLBs certainly kick up their fair share of the stuff. Dust, pollen, heavy metals like lead, fecal matter, and pesticides get launched into the air where they can linger for hours or even longer. The US EPA says; “Particulate matter (PM), also known as particle pollution, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.” According to research from NYU Langone Medical Center in 2016, the annual economic cost of the nearly 16,000 premature births linked to air pollution in the United States has reached $4.33 billion. The number of premature births in the U.S. surpasses the rates in other developed nations. Even small amounts of particulate matter, below the levels set as safe by the EPA are shown to increase risk of intrauterine inflammation in pregnant women. This condition is linked to many negative health outcomes for their children, like neurodevelopmental disorders and asthma. These disorders last a lifetime.

The mow and blow crew have finally knocked off for the day, and it’s blessedly quiet here again. I hope that this brief overview helps you understand the depth of a problem I was unaware of for a long time. ‘Leaf blowers blow air, right? No harm there!’ Well, I was wrong because I was uninformed. But in today’s world we have an obligation to be informed, and to take action to change things that we can.

Things Individuals Can Do To Help

  • If you need to hire a landscaper, ask them to use rakes and brooms. Even better, ask them to mulch mow the leaves in place during the fall – this means less trips hauling leaves for them, and better soil plus lawn weed suppression for you. And even if you don’t hire a landscaper, you can still mulch mow them your self.
  • Use electric lawn equipment. They are quiet, less polluting, and require less maintenance in addition to being comparably priced with gas equipment.
  • Skip a step by using a leaf sweeper. A long forgotten but useful gardening tool, a leaf sweeper will pick up and bag leaves all in one step. They work on driveways and sidewalks too. Human powered, they cost nothing to operate, are quiet and do not pollute. They are also available in large models if you have a lot of area to clear.
  • Educate others. Now that you are informed about this needless form of pollution, let others know so they can also make better choices in the future. Setting a good example is sometimes all that is needed to start a conversation. Your neighbors may notice that yard work is now taking less time for you, and your lawn and flower beds look healthier. You have an opportunity to be ‘the Joneses’ in a way that benefits everyone.

Burden of disease from environmental noise – Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe

National Emissions from Lawn and Garden Equipment

Leaf Blower’s Emissions Dirtier than High-Performance Pick-Up Truck’s, Says Edmunds’

IARC Monographs

Yearly cost of US premature births linked to air pollution: $4.33 billion

Even a little air pollution may have long-term health effects on developing fetus

More Pollution Than Cars? Gas-Powered Gardening Equipment Poses the Next Air Quality Threat

Photos by Pollinator Friendly Landscaping


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2017 Curbside Weed Control

Another year in Dover, and with it, more glyphosate.


A man mixes Roundup herbicide commercial concentrate

Once again, contractors will be spraying herbicides along the curb lines of our downtown area streets, sidewalks and parking areas on or around the first week of June, July, August, and September.

The city recently informed Non Toxic Dover that, ‘With regard to curb side weed control, we will be continuing with the same vendor used in the prior year.’



Screen Shot 2017-09-16 at 3.08.25 PM


Municipal Pest Management’s bid for option A was chosen in 2016, the products listed on the permit are as follows:

Roundup Promax (glyphosate)- EPA 524-579 MSDS

Rodeo Herbicide (glyphosate)- EPA# 62719-324 MSDS

Avenger Weedkiller (d-limonene) – EPA:82052-1 MSDS

The option chosen for 2017 is not listed on the public bid results. After inquiries to the city we have received this statement: “BioSafe is one of the products used by the contractor and their permit application indicates Round Up ProMAx, Rodeo Herbicide and Reward Herbicide for spot application, as needed.”

BioSafe is the maker of AXXE broad spectrum herbicide, an OMRI certified product. Had this been the only product being used this season it would have counted as a large improvement, however, with the other products in use it makes little difference. This is not an IPM option, nor is it an organic option. None of the bid submissions fit the true definition of IPM nor were they anything resembling organic. The bids were essentially all for option A. We are happy to see that another organic herbicide is being trailed, but testing out one each year on a couple of streets is much too slow a pace. A more efficient way would be to trial several different alternatives at once, and choose whichever work best. The neighboring city of Portsmouth has done this successfully. They tried multiple options and found two organic herbicides satisfactory for their needs.

Once again, a serious disappointment and not at all in line with the promises made in the Sustainable Dover initiative. As of this point in time, having had expert training sponsored by the non profit group Beyond Pesticides, we should expect more of the city than this. Public health and our environment should always be a priority when choosing how to maintain our streets and sidewalks as should the wishes of residents who have made it very clear they do not want to be exposed to the chemicals in these glyphosate based herbicides.

Glyphosate is recognized as a probable carcinogen and as being genotoxic – which means it causes damage to DNA that can lead to cancer. It is linked to numerous health effects along with its major metabolite (breakdown product) AMPA. Glyphosate is known to contaminate groundwater due to runoff and leaching like many other pesticides. Current science shows us that the whole formulations of the herbicide is far more toxic than the active ingredient alone, and there is no way to know what comprises the ‘inert’ ingredient portion of the formula. Are we to trust the manufacturer and the EPA who in recently unsealed court documents are shown to have colluded to hide safety issues with their flagship product? To learn more about glyphosate and Roundup, see It’s Raining Roundup…

Are you on the spray route? Here is the a list of streets that are usually sprayed, however residents whose streets were not on this list have spotted contractors spraying in the past, so please keep that in mind. Spraying has occurred late in the fall season as well.

Tell the city of Dover you want them to stop spending our tax dollars on toxic herbicides by signing our petition.



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Pollinators Need Your Help


Some uninformed people think that all insects are bad and need to be controlled. On the contrary, insects and other pollinators are an extremely important part of our planet’s ecosystem. The vast majority of insects are beneficial. Insects form the foundation of the food web, and with out them we’d be in big trouble.

Honey bees  in particular have dominated the headlines for several years now, due to unsustainable losses. Beekeepers reported losing 44% of their colonies from April 2015 to April 2016. Both winter and summer loss rates increased. Some winter losses are expected, but the current rates are unsustainable and summer losses are unusual as bees should be thriving during summer months. This is cause for serious concern.

But honey bees are not the only ones in trouble. Monarch butterflies have seen huge declines in recent years, as have fireflies, and the rusty patched bumble bee (bombus affinis) was just proposed to be listed for endangered species status. In fact, insect species are declining worldwide. Researchers attribute this to a variety of factors – climate change, modern agricultural practices, habitat loss and pesticide use. Some of these factors are not easily addressed, while others are very much within our control.

There are factors that we as individuals can tackle. What we do in our own back yards (and front yards!) can make a difference.

Here are some suggestions we can all implement ourselves to assist our valuable insect populations.

Ditch the pesticides!


Seriously. This is one of the things we have total control over. Pesticides are toxic to our insect friends and totally unnecessary for cosmetic purposes. If you have an issue with ticks, fleas, mosquitoes etc. that needs control, there are many safer options that you can use. If a product is needed, choose the least toxic option and follow label directions exactly. See our pests and lawn pages for more info on safer products.

Plant bee and butterfly friendly plants


When planning your garden, choose varieties of plants that are native to your area. These will help support pollinators with nectar and habitat, they will require less water and be more resistant to pests and disease than imported ornamental plants. Be sure to provide a variety of flowers to attract more types of beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. Milkweed is an important plant for any pollinator garden. Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family) is needed for monarchs to breed. They lay eggs on the leaves and the hatching caterpillars eat them until they are ready to begin metamorphosis. Other flowers are needed for adults to find nectar. Incorporating some native varieties of milkweed, which are lovely flowers in their own right, will bring  beautiful butterflies and more to your yard. The more variety you have, the more species that will visit your yard! Check out more tips on designing a pollinator friendly landscape here.

Leave The Leaves


Insects need leaf litter for egg laying and hibernating. A leaf free yard is not going to provide habitat to beneficial insects. This is not to say all leaves must be left, in fact removing leaves from paved areas and along streets and gutters is very important. Decomposing leaves can add phosphorous to bodies of water creating algal blooms which harm aquatic life. Allowing leaves to decompose mulched on a lawn , or in a flower bed or other out of the way places in your yard will not have this problem – but the leaves you leave behind will provide places for insects like fireflies (who also appreciate a log or two left to decompose) butterflies and moths as well as returning organic matter to the soil as they break down. Simplify your Fall leaf cleanup routine, and you can enjoy a more diverse beneficial insect population visiting your garden.

Rake, Sweep and Mow, But Never Blow!


In addition to being horribly noisy, leaf blowers, especially gas powered, kick up dust, allergens, feces and other pollutants. This particulate matter can trigger asthma attacks and become lodged in the lungs where it can cause disease, including cancer. Leaf blowers high winds damage topsoil and disturb insect habitat. Pollinators are just one of many good reasons to just say no when it comes to these pollution machines. A pollinator friendly yard and leaf blowers don’t mix.

Provide Lodging


Give your insects a place to stay. Insect houses can be purchased, or you can make your own. There is no end to the design choices and the more variation in materials, the more tiny guests you are likely to have. Insect houses make a pretty addition to any yard or pollinator garden. Read more on pollinators and insect houses at Native Bees of New England.

Give Them A Drink


Kind of a no-brainer, yet frequently overlooked is providing a water source for insects. It’s as simple as putting out a shallow dish with some glass gems, large gravel, or rocks inside. Some people have even used sea glass. This will keep bees and other insects from drowning while looking good too. Just remember to freshen or fill on a regular basis.

We hope these tips will get you started in helping out our important insect friends.


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2016 Dover Curbside Weed Control

Despite much communication and resource sharing over the past year, the city of Dover will once again be having contractors spray herbicides along the curb lines of our downtown area streets.


At least four times this season, usually around the first week of June, July, August, and September, herbicides will be applied to public areas.


Municipal Pest Management’s bid for option A was chosen, the products listed on the permit are as follows:

Roundup Promax (glyphosate)- EPA 524-579 MSDS

Rodeo Herbicide (glyphosate)- EPA# 62719-324 MSDS

Avenger Weedkiller (d-limonene) – EPA:82052-1 MSDS

The third product is an OMRI certified product which means it is an organic approved herbicide. Had this been the only product being used this season it would have counted as a large improvement, however, with the other two products in use it makes little difference. This is not an IPM option, nor is it an organic option. None of the bid submissions fit the true definition of IPM nor were they anything resembling organic. The bids were essentially all for option A.

A grave disappointment.

This means contractors are still using two herbicide formulations, both with the active ingredient glyphosate. Glyphosate is recognized as a probable carcinogen and is linked to numerous health effects along with its major metabolite (breakdown product) AMPA. Glyphosate is known to contaminate groundwater due to runoff and leaching like many other pesticides.

Dover uses eight wells located throughout the city to pump groundwater from four underground aquifers. Will you know if there is glyphosate in your drinking water? The MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal) for glyphosate is 0.7 mg/L or 700 ppb. Only when testing shows glyphosate is above this limit will it be reported. Anything above this limit must be filtered out, but no routine filtering of this contaminant is done below this level. Research shows harm from chronic exposure at even these low levels. To learn more about glyphosate also known as Roundup, see It’s Raining Roundup…

Here is the a list of streets that are usually sprayed, however residents whose streets were not on this list have spotted contractors spraying in the past, so please keep that in mind.


Our city government welcomes input from residents. Ask them to investigate safer alternatives to conventional herbicide spraying. Contact the city council by clicking ‘Email Board’ under the photo. Contact the city manager here.

Facilities Grounds and Cemeteries has been given a list of alternative methods and products to try this season. Give them a call at 603 516-6480 to see how it’s going, and let them know you want to see those alternatives being used next season.  A convenient email form to contact Community Services can be found here.

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A Letter To Our Neighbors

To our neighbors:

We know it’s important to you to maintain your home. You’ve made an investment and you want to take care of it. Having a well kept lawn and yard is one of the ways you show that you are a good neighbor. You care about property values, not just your own, but those of the whole neighborhood.


You take pride in where you live, and for some of  you, lawn care is considered part of your civic duty. You have put time and money into the appearance of your property because you care. We understand this and appreciate the gesture.

None of these things would we expect or even ask you to change, however, we’d like for you to take a moment to listen to the neighbors you care about, and consider a few things.

Approxiamtely 90 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients are used on U.S. lawns annually. Our culture has been sold on a $70 billion+ industry model for lawn care. Many of us have heard of a ‘4 step program’. Synthetic fertilizers, herbicides (both pre and post emergent), and insecticides are used, usually 4 or more times a season to get rid of ‘weeds‘ and grubs and green up the turf. Once you begin a program like this – whether you do it yourself by purchasing the ‘weed and feed’ formulas at the local hardware store, or hire a company to do it for you – you step onto what is known as the pesticide treadmill.



At every turn, promises of the ‘perfect’ lawn, but at what cost?


None of these products will actually eradicate the weeds or the insects – they aren’t meant to solve problems – you must keep using the product indefinitely. Year after year, you pay, they spray. This certainly benefits industry profits, but what about the rest of us?

The products that you are being told are essential to a nice lawn are legal, and they are regulated, and they are sold in stores. Many of you make the assumption that because of this, these products must also be safe. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are many myths about pesticides. For example; the products being purchased and used by homeowners and lawn companies have not been appropriately tested or evaluated for many health effects.

Did you know, only active ingredients are required to be tested? That testing is done by the manufacturer and submitted to the regulatory agency. The EPA reviews the industry studies which are rarely, if at all, available to the public or published in any peer reviewed journals. The whole formulated product that ends up on your lawn is comprised of a percentage of active ingredient(s) and other or ‘inert’ ingredients.


Source: UC Davis

The whole product is not being tested. The chemicals it breaks down into are not tested. Combinations of active ingredients are not tested (like those in a 3-way herbicide product). They are not routinely evaluated for hormone mimicking effects known as endocrine disruption or for metabolic disruption or intergenerational effects (how will your children and grandchildren be effected by your exposure?) and neither are they tested for developmental toxicity.

Dozens of leading scientific and medical experts recently released a consensus statement on toxic chemicals and our children’s health. Their conclusion?

Based on these findings, we assert that the current system in the United States for evaluating scientific evidence and making health-based decisions about environmental chemicals is fundamentally broken. To help reduce the unacceptably high prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders in our children, we must eliminate or significantly reduce exposures to chemicals that contribute to these conditions. We must adopt a new framework for assessing chemicals that have the potential to disrupt brain development and prevent the use of those that may pose a risk. This consensus statement lays the foundation for developing recommendations to monitor, assess, and reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals. These measures are urgently needed if we are to protect healthy brain development so that current and future generations can reach their fullest potential.

These products are linked by scientific evidence to a host of health problems for people and pets, and cause harm to the environment. Here are a few facts:

  • In 2011, approximately 26.7 million tons of pollutants were emitted by gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment.
  • Grass, per the EPA’s nationwide estimate, requires 9 billion gallons of water a day to keep green.
  • Roundup, the world’s most popular herbicide is listed by the WHO as a probable carcinogen, shows evidence of endocrine disruption and is genotoxic – which means it damages DNA in a way that can lead to cancer.
  • A 2015 meta analysis from Harvard University found a significant increase in the risk of childhood leukemia associated with herbicide exposure and also found that childhood exposure to residential insecticides was associated with a significant increase in risk of childhood leukemia and childhood lymphomas
  • Neonicotinoids, are the most commonly used insecticide in the world. Both commercial and consumer grub control products are typically neonics like imidacloprid. In addition to being highly toxic to bees and songbirds, evidence is emerging that this class of pesticides pose a threat to the developing brain (Kara et al. 2015)
  • Studies have linked lawn pesticides with canine malignant lymphoma and higher bladder cancer risk. Dogs also can expose their owners, children and other pets in the house to these chemicals. Researchers also found the widespread evidence of lawn chemicals in the urine of pet dogs. Even among dogs in households where chemicals were not applied.
  • According to the Audubon Society of Connecticut, 76 million birds are killed annually by pesticides.
  • 2,4-D, most famously known as a main component of Agent Orange, and the active ingredient in most ‘weed and feed’ products, is linked to numerous health effects like cancer and endocrine disruption. And the evidence continues to mount.
  • Lawn pesticides end up in our drinking water. Out of the 30 most commonly used, 17 are detected in groundwater and 23 have the potential to leach.
  • The chemicals we are exposed to in the environment are not tested for their combined effects, but scientists have found that many of these chemicals can increase cancer risks at the tiny levels we are being frequently exposed to.

This is very important information to think about. Please realize though, it is equally important for you to understand not just the health and environmental impacts of conventional lawn care, but how we are all personally effected by the lawn chemicals and the landscaping machines being used in our neighborhood.

We are prevented from growing vegetables gardens because of the drift coming from treated yards. We worry about the health of our children who play outside and are being exposed to the chemicals that have drifted over. When the truck came to spray your yard for mosquitoes, many of our honeybees died. Our chickens stopped laying eggs for several days after being exposed to chemical drift. We have seen the neighbors barefoot child run to catch their ball that rolled over into your grass just hours after it had herbicides and insecticides applied to it. We worry about our pets who, just like children, are highly vulnerable to exposure. We worry about our family member being treated for cancer and our loved one with a chronic illness. We worry about our unborn babies, whose development in the womb can be adversely effected by chemical exposures.

We have suffered severe asthma attacks requiring emergency room visits from the highly polluting gas leafblowers that the landscaping companies use. You can hear them on almost a daily basis here. The particulate matter like dust, pollen, animal feces and pesticide residue they launch into the air lingers for hours after they’ve packed up and left. We have watched your lawn care company  blow the granules of insecticide  back onto the grass after spreading it, and seen the visible clouds of poison dust they blow into the air. The landscapers leafblowers are spreading lead contaminated dust and dirt from yards where there are older homes that have been painted with lead based paint. Some of our children have lead poisoning.

We will likely never know the full impact of these lawn care practices on our health, or on the environment, however there exists more than enough information at this point to take a precautionary approach.

“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.” Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle, Jan. 1998

Does this mean forgoing lawn care and having unkempt yards overgrown with crabgrass? Absolutely not! Maintaining your lawn can be done with natural methods. Using a systems based approach to lawn care is not only better for people, pets and the environment, but because you get off the pesticide treadmill, it saves you money in the long term due to decreased inputs. And if you are a DIY kind of person, it will save on labor as well.

Let us help you in making this change.

We can help you to find a good local company if you hire someone, and we can help you learn how to use a natural approach to lawn care if you do your own.

Join the Non Toxic Dover NH group, or How To Create a Non Toxic Community group on Facebook for assistance in making the switch to lawn care that meets everyone’s expectations and doesn’t take any risks with our health or our environment.

As a community we can put the focus on health, not just of our lawns but on residents of all species, and our natural resources – while at the same time cultivating healthy relationships with our neighbors. This is the new civic duty. Please join us.







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Dover School District Needs a Pesticide Policy Now

Back in May of 2015 I wrote an open letter to the Dover school district Superintendent Elaine Arbour.

Here it stands, July 7th, and despite a verbal commitment, numerous emails, phone calls and sharing of resources, we still have no policy in place to protect students.


pesticide application sign athletic

A pesticide application sign on a private athletic field where children play in Middletown, Connecticut. A ban is in place on school athletic fields grades k-8.

Another open letter seemed appropriate given the amount of time that has passed, and especially in light of the important consensus statement released a week ago.

Dear Superintendent Arbour,


In May of 2015 we discussed creating a policy to protect Dover students from unnecessary pesticide exposure. I was verbally promised a policy would be created.

It is now July 2016.

On July 1st dozens of scientists, physicians and public health advocates created a scientific consensus statement regarding environmental impacts on children’s brain development.

“The TENDR Consensus Statement is a call to action to reduce exposures to toxic chemicals that can contribute to the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disabilities in America’s children. The TENDR authors agree that widespread exposures to toxic chemicals in our air, water, food, soil, and consumer products can increase the risks for cognitive, behavioral, or social impairment, as well as specific neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Di Renzo et al. 2015; Gore et al. 2015; Lanphear 2015; Council on Environmental Health 2011). This preventable threat results from a failure of our industrial and consumer markets and regulatory systems to protect the developing brain from toxic chemicals. To lower children’s risks for developing neurodevelopmental disorders, policies and actions are urgently needed to eliminate or significantly reduce exposures to these chemicals. Further, if we are to protect children, we must overhaul how government agencies and business assess risks to human health from chemical exposures, how chemicals in commerce are regulated, and how scientific evidence informs decision making by government and the private sector.”

Dover’s children deserve action on this matter now. I have sent a sample policy to you months ago to use as a template in drafting one for the Dover school system. We have an excellent bus idling policy and RSA in place, why do we not yet have one for pesticides?
No more time should be wasted in putting together this plan of action. Please contact me ASAP and let me know where you are at, and how the plan is to be going forward. Every season we wait, the more our children’s developing brains and bodies are put at risk by the toxic chemicals being used on our athletic fields and near play areas.


Please join me in urging the Superintendent and School Board to act now to protect our children from needless toxic chemical exposure.
Dr. Elaine M. Arbour, Ed.D.

You may email the board at:

Learn more about Project TENDR and their consensus statement here.


July, 21st 2016

Dr. Arbour has sent a response regarding the progress of the pesticide policy.
I appreciate your follow-up email regarding a pesticides policy for the Dover School District. We are in the process of drafting one with the City that will then be brought to the School Board.


In the meantime, both City and School District employees have been attending trainings on safe alternatives to pesticides. We have an internal meeting scheduled for August 17th to continue to coordinate our policies, and I will be working on several draft policy updates, including pesticide use, tomorrow.


I understand your concerns about keeping our children safe, as well as the learning and environmental impacts of pesticide use. They are being taken seriously and will be addressed in the coming months.




Elaine M. Arbour, Ed.D.


We are grateful for the Superintendent taking this matter seriously, and look forward to  seeing a policy be enacted to protect the health of Dover’s children.






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Lyme, Tickborne Diseases And Pesticides

Lyme disease is a serious infection that can be transmitted by the bite of Ixodes scapularis – more commonly known as the black-legged deer tick. Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, was discovered in the early 1980’s in Old Lyme, Connecticut.  Borrelia is a spiral shaped bacteria known as a spirochete. It can cause arthritic, neurological, cardiovascular and many other symptoms.

Less than half of all Lyme patients recall ever seeing a bulls eye rash or being bitten by a tick. Lyme can also be mistaken for many other illnesses thereby delaying proper medical care, and making the infection much harder to treat. The CDC estimates that Lyme disease infects over 300,000 people a year. That is twice as many people diagnosed with breast cancer, and six-times as many people with HIV. Lyme disease is a public health crisis.


Photo courtesy of

Ticks don’t just carry Lyme disease. Powassan, Ehrlichia, Anaplamosis, and Babesia are just some of the other infections they can transmit. These tickborne diseases will vary based on locations, and species of tick.  It is extremely important for people to be aware of the risk and prevalence of these diseases and to take precautions to avoid being bitten.

Because of the serious nature of these infections, many people use unsafe repellents and yard treatments to try to reduce their risk. Unfortunately, they are simply adding a different type of risk to the equation. According to a randomized control study conducted on the effectiveness of bifrenthrin (a synthetic pyrethroid) over the course of two years found that while the pesticides did reduce the number of ticks, they did not make any significant difference in the number of tick encounters, or the incidence of tickborne illness. This suggests that people are being exposed in other places, not just at home. This underscores the need for appropriate use of repellents and least toxic management strategies for both homeowners and public recreational areas.

Synthetic pyrethroids, (like bifrenthrin used in the study mentioned above) are not a least toxic option. Pyrethroids are commonly used as a yard and clothing treatment for ticks. Like the widely used permethrin, they work by by interfering with basic nerve cell functioning. Studies in mice and rats show that sub-lethal intoxication leads to aggression, hypersensitivity to external stimulation, whole-body tremor, convulsions and paralysis. Permethrin binds tightly to soil and household dust. Permethrin is highly toxic to bees, fish and aquatic organisms.  Studies on permethrin have shown it can interfere with the hormones in our bodies. According to the scientists at TEDX:

“One of our primary concerns is recent research demonstrating that permethrin exhibits the characteristics of an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the communication system of glands, hormones, and cellular receptors that control the body’s internal functions. A relatively unique feature of endocrine disruptors is that they exert their effects at extremely low doses, even when higher doses exhibit no adverse effects. Disorders that have increased in prevalence in recent years such as unusual male gonadal development, infertility, ADHD, autism, intellectual impairment, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and childhood and/or adult cancers are now being linked to prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors.

In the permethrin studies of health effects on the female reproductive system, excessive cell growth was a common finding. In contrast, cell death and reduced tissue weight of male reproductive organs were among the findings on the male reproductive system. One study suggested that the products permethrin breaks down into may be 100 times more potent with regards to endocrine disruption than permethrin itself. Due to the potential endocrine disrupting effects of permethrin, pregnant women should take extra steps to avoid exposure.”

The toxicity of permethrin has been shown to be greatly enhanced when used in combination with DEET, an insect repellent. Given how widely used pyrethroids are, it seems prudent to seek out an alternative to DEET. This is one reason I do not feel comfortable recommending it, the second reason being just like pesticides, most commercial repellents have ‘other ingredients’ which are not disclosed or tested properly for safety (most times not tested at all) due to our completely inadequate chemical laws. It’s impossible to know if a product is safe to use or not when you don’t even know the majority of the ingredients in the formulation.


85% ‘none of your business just put it on your skin!’.

Seeing as how our skin absorbs anything we put on it, (think nicotine or birth control patches) it seems prudent to at least know what that something is, yes?

Pets are another area of concern when it comes to ticks, since they can hitch a ride on your furry companions and enter your home. It is important to use a product for both your protection and that of your pet, as they too are vulnerable to Lyme and other tickborne diseases. The majority of flea and tick prevention options are fairly toxic, unfortunately.

From the Natural Resource Defense Council:

“Most conventional flea and tick products—including collars, topical treatments, sprays, and dusts—are registered as pesticides and regulated by the EPA. (Those given orally, like pills, must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.) But here’s the ugly truth: Many of the pesticides allowed for use on pets are linked to serious health issues in people, such as cancer and neurological and respiratory problems. Pets can also suffer: Skin irritation, neurological problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and even organ failure have been reported as a result of pet poisonings.

The government has faced criticism from NRDC and other watchdog groups about insufficient safety standards for these products. Consumers, as well as some veterinarians, don’t know the whole story, says NRDC senior scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman. “Many vets count on the EPA to make sure that the products on the market are safe if used correctly.” Unfortunately, the ingredients in these products are still quite dangerous, and regular use can result in unsafe exposure, particularly for children and pregnant women.”

However, we cannot leave our pets unprotected, so we need to look for the safest options available. Pets are particularly vulnerable to pesticide use. Be sure that you research proper use of any products you put on your pet, especially essential oils. They are a great tool, but it’s generally not a good idea to try homemade recipes for your pet. Be sure to use a product that is formulated specifically for use on a dog or cat. Both have different sensitivities and tolerances when it comes to oils and many other substances. Natural substances are not always benign, and should be used properly. In some cases, they should not be used at all.

It is imperative that we do what we can to prevent the severe, debilitating illnesses spread by ticks, but the answer is not to expose ourselves, children, pets and the environment to chronic low doses of toxic chemicals over a lifetime. The health of American people is at an all time low, our children suffer from asthma, allergies, cancer, neurological and autoimmune disorders at unprecedented and rising rates. These and many more diseases are linked to pesticide exposure. We are responsible for this. And now, we must be responsible.

As the picture says: ‘what part of this is pesticides?’ We don’t have time to wait to find out exactly how much. We already know pesticides are well linked to these conditions. We can cut our risks and the risks to those around us today. Let’s not let fear of vector borne disease let us lose sight of the big picture. The threat from pesticides is equally serious.

Pesticide use not only affects you, but also those around you, and can have far reaching consequences you may never even be aware of.

Please use the information here to guide you in making smart decisions regarding tick control. Share with family and friends.

I will be updating this list of products over time. Please note that anything included on the list has 100% of ingredients disclosed. I do not sell any of these products, and links are not necessarily an endorsement. Please use good judgement in choosing and using products – this list is merely a guide.



cedar oil industries

mosquito barrier



beesafe cedar spray

beneficial nematodes


ticks n all

all terrain



green mountain repellents

badger balm


homs biteblocker

justneem adios

nature’s cloak

buzz away extreme


NRDC green paws flea and tick products directory

Also see About & Resources.

Now that you are armed with some safer products, there are still important steps to take.

Wear protective clothing – rubber boots (hard for ticks to climb), socks tucked into pants and light colored clothing are all recommended as ways to keep ticks from attaching and to make it easier to spot them. There are many cedar oil products available to spray onto socks shoes or clothing as well as using repellents on exposed skin.

Don’t forget to do thorough tick checks – using a lint roller is an efficient way to catch any ticks that may be climbing on you. After coming inside, a shower can rinse off ticks and putting clothes into a hot dryer (before washing!) can kill any ticks that may be hiding. Check your whole body using a hand mirror paying attention to areas like groin or armpits where ticks like to hide. Check your scalp too. We should also make sure our yards are kept free from areas where ticks can hide.

If you do find a tick attached, remove it right! Do not try to smother the tick, or use a match to make it back out. If the tick is disturbed it may regurgitate into you any diseases it carries. Use fine pointed tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the mouth as possible and pull straight up steadily without jerking. From the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society:

While the longer the tick is attached, the higher the risk of transmission, it is possible to get Lyme disease even if the tick is attached for less than 24 hours. The salivary juices of the tick, which contain anticoagulants, anesthetics, and immune suppressors, also contain microbes that can be injected at the time of attachment. Transmission of bacteria by ticks attached less than 24 hours has been well documented in animals, and a recent paper last year documented that this can occur in humans as well.

Save the tick
and send it for testing. Testing the tick is far more accurate than currently available blood tests. It takes weeks for the body to create antibodies, so a negative blood test right after being bitten is not an indication that you do not have Lyme. Waiting for symptoms to appear, like a bulls eye rash is also not a reliable indicator. If you do see a bulls eye rash, then you do have Lyme without question and should be treated with no less than three weeks of antibiotics immediately.  For diagnostic testing Tick Report takes three business days. While waiting to get the results back from the test, if you live in an endemic area especially, you should seriously consider treating the bite! Waiting can mean the infection has time to move into the body and progress to a stage that is much harder to treat and very serious. Early treatment is key.

For more information on Lyme and tickborne diseases, go to

Let’s all be aware of the serious threat of both tickborne illness and pesticide exposure, and use that knowledge to protect ourselves and others.




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