Things got a little testy Tuesday on WMAL (AM 630) when Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal was asked about the bill he is sponsoring that would ban cosmetic pesticides from residential lawns and athletic fields.
Morning co-hosts Brian Wilson and Larry O’Connor — who, like most at the station, trend libertarian/conservative — started the phone interview with O’Connor asking why Montgomery County should regulate pesticides already overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Maryland.
Leventhal — who makes no bones about his desire to make Montgomery County the safest, healthiest jurisdiction in the land — cited “abundant” research raising concerns about whether chemicals such as Glyphosate and 2-4D, which are active ingredients in many lawn-care products, could cause childhood cancers. He defended the measure as “a very gentle law,” with light penalties (a $50 fine for the first offense) and intended to educate homeowners and change their practices, rather than to punish.
“It’s a gentle law unless you deeply care about your lawn and watching it being decimated by grub worms,” Wilson said.
“Okay, you’ve obviously got a point of view on this question,” Leventhal countered.
And so it went.
The discussion touched on some of the council’s recent actions, including a ban on plastic foam containers and last week’s passage of Leventhal’s bill requiring that county pet stores sell animals only from shelters or rescue organizations, not from commercial mills.
Wilson: “People begin to say, ‘Is it really the job of the county to sort of tell me on this level the things I can and cannot do?’ ”
Leventhal: “Are you asking me a question?”
Leventhal: “And the question is what?”
Wilson: The question is, is that the role of government? You’ve been sort of jokingly called ‘Dr. No . . . ’ ”
Leventhal: “Many people are delighted that we’re going to prevent Styrofoam little pellets from getting on in our waterways. . . . These measures all passed the County Council overwhelmingly and are very popular with our citizens.”
Toward the end of the 10-minute segment, Leventhal pointed out that the lawn bill does not forbid retail sales of cosmetic pesticides, only their use on lawns.
Wilson: “You can still go to Home Depot and get the stuff?”
Leventhal: “That’s correct.”
Wilson: “I’m confused. Why in the world would you ban it and allow it to be sold?”
Leventhal patiently explained that sales of the pesticides are allowed because agricultural land — which represents about a third of the county — would be exempt from the bill.
O’Connor: “Wait. So these pesticides are so bad, but it’s okay to put it in the food the farmers are growing?”
Leventhal: “Are you asserting that pesticides are bad? Or are you just being sarcastic?”
O’Connor: “I’m not being sarcastic. I just don’t understand the logic of this.”
Leventhal said that farmers are experts in pesticide application rather than the average homeowner, and added that the use of pesticides in food production is more important “than making sure that your lawn is a particular shade of emerald green.”