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Portland Neighborhoods Seek to Become Pesticide-Free

Metro and Oregon State University Extension Service provide workshops at learning gardens, free expert advice, videos, guides and more to help residents take the healthy lawn and garden pledge to avoid using pesticides and grow a garden that's beautiful, abundant, and safe for children, pets, forests and streams.

Mulysa Melco, a member of Overlook, Oregon's neighborhood association, is spearheading an effort to make her Portland's first pesticide-free neighborhood. "I'm hoping that long term exposure will decrease," she said. "I hope for healthier people, especially kids. If we can have cleaner water and air and better wildlife and pollinator habitats, those are all goods for us."

In the coming months, the Overlook neighborhood association's sustainability committee will begin communicating with the neighborhood's 2,500 households through social media, email and door-to-door house visits. They'll ask residents to take Metro's healthy lawn and garden pledge, which is part of a sustainability program providing residents with resources to garden without using pesticides. The neighborhood association is also planning a garden tour of pesticide-free gardens on August 24.

Melco said the association also plans to contact the various industrial businesses on Swan Island, which is part of the Overlook neighborhood to see if those businesses can decrease their chemical use. "We've got a lot of industry [in our neighborhood]," Melco said. "There are some geographic things that make us a little more at risk for pesticide exposure."

The neighborhood association also hopes to eventually work with the Portland Parks and Recreation department to make the five parks in the Overlook neighborhood pesticide free, especially Overlook Park, which is one of the largest parks in north Portland. Northeast Portland's Sabin and Concordia neighborhoods are also in the planning stages for making their neighborhoods pesticide free.

Pesticide use has been in the news since late June, when more than 50,000 bumblebees died in a Target parking lot in Wilsonville, Ore. The insecticide Safari was determined to be the cause of the largest documented die-off of bumblebees in the country's history. The die-off caused Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to introduce legislation on July 12, called the Save American Pollinators Act that would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, the type of pesticide that killed the bees, until the EPA can review the chemicals used in the pesticide.

At the state level, the Oregon Legislature failed to pass a bill, known as the Toxics Disclosure for Healthy Kids Act, that would have required manufacturers of children's toys to disclose whether the toys contained 19 toxic chemicals, and begin working to replace those chemicals with safer alternatives.

The bill died on the last day of the session and is the fourth time the legislature has failed to pass legislation regulating chemicals found in objects used by children. But when a similar bill failed last year, Multnomah County's board of commissioners reacted by passing a countywide ordinance banning Bisphenol-A (BPA) from children's products.

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November 13, 2019, 8:30 pm PDT

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