Tonight, city councilors will be receiving the recommendations of the Parks and Recreation Commission relative to pesticide use in Ashland City parks.

Tonight, city councilors will be receiving the recommendations of the Parks and Recreation Commission relative to pesticide use in Ashland City parks.

A couple weeks ago I heard that the Parks and Recreation Commission had rejected the idea of going to a pesticide-free policy, or even phasing in such a policy. I wondered how that could be.

There certainly are ample precedents in other communities. Arcata, Calif., has been pesticide-free for over 10 years, and Seattle, which manages over 110,000 acres of public land, has not used Tier 1 chemicals in many years.

There was certainly strong and ample public support demonstrated for a change to a pesticide-free policy. I surmise the reticence to adopt such a policy likely stems from several factors, and I would like to address these.

It is my opinion that the health impact of the chemicals we use is severely misunderstood and misrepresented.

First, much of the research that demonstrates safety was done by the companies that manufacture the chemicals. The egregious shortsightedness of this kind of bastardized science makes the results of such studies highly dubious.

Second, there is no regulation of the "inert" ingredients used in these products, opening the door for a host of other chemicals to be used with no disclosure or oversight.

Third, even if we could trust our science to demonstrate a product has low toxicity, there is no research that shows the effects of combinations of chemicals. This research will never be done because the number of combinations of chemicals is infinite and the cost of research is prohibitive.

You might wonder, are these chemical inside our bodies right now? A 2004 study showed, on average, over 200 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. Many of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. More recently, nine of 10 randomly selected samples of cord blood tested positive for BPA, which has been implicated in a lengthening list of serious chronic disorders, including cancer, cognitive and behavioral impairments, endocrine system disruption, reproductive and cardiovascular system abnormalities, diabetes, asthma and obesity.

While we are not talking specifically about BPA, I am trying to impress upon you that the risks associated with use of toxic chemicals, particularly when there are nontoxic options, far outweigh the benefits. In 2008, the city of Ashland used 13 gallons of undiluted glyphosate (Roundup) and 2.5 gallons of triclopir (not including the golf course), both Tier 1 chemicals.

We have no idea the specific effects of the chemical concoctions our children are exposed to, both in utero and as they grow up. We do know that children's health has quite rapidly deteriorated over the decades. We are also experiencing huge increases in chronic diseases in adult populations, drowning a medical system that can't keep pace with usage.

The other reasons I imagine for resistance to moving toward pesticide-free parks are the inconvenience, the lack of knowledge about cost and implementation, and the inertia of business as usual. In my estimation, none of these reasons is sufficient given the dangers posed by use of chemicals. That is why I believe the City Council must reject Parks and Recreation Commission's recommendations and step forward to create public policy that looks to the future.

It is probably clear to you, as it is to me, that Ashland will eventually be pesticide-free. I ask you — why not now? How much longer will we continue to play Russian roulette with the health and well-being of the most vulnerable members of the population — our children and elderly? When will we assume our responsibility for choosing the health and well-being of our citizens over the interests of large corporations that have demonstrated to us over and over again that they are interested only in profits at the expense of our health?

I urge you to attend the City Council meeting tonight to let the councilors know the policy set forth by Parks and Recreation is unacceptable. It is within the city's to establish an ordinance for pesticide-free parks in Ashland. Encourage the councilors to take this bold step.

Terry Mitchel lives in Ashland.