One by one, concerned Whitefish Bay residents came forward to address the Village Board as part of a "listening session" Monday night, during which they pleaded against using pesticides in Whitefish Bay parks.
This special meeting of the board was a forum for those pleas, following a when the chamber was flooded with over 100 residents. This meeting drew about 40 residents, about a dozen of whom spoke to the board.
The use of pesticides in public parks has been discussed at Village Hall for the past five years, culminating in 2010 with village residents protesting the use of pesticides in the parks before the Village Board. As a pilot program, the board agreed not to spray pesticides on and parks in 2010, and last year, the village that included pesticide-free turf care practices in most green spaces.
At Monday's meeting, all attendees were asked to sign in and indicate whether they are in favor of pesticide use. Village President Julie Siegel said both sides were represented in the audience, but only those against pesticide use spoke directly to the board.
"I don't believe we can really wait any longer to seriously address the issue of pesticide exposure and the negative health effects within our own village," Karlene Fox said. Fox pointed out that Whitefish Bay's "neighbors to the south" have done just that.
"If Shorewood can do it, so can Whitefish Bay," she said.
Fox, along with most of the evening's speakers, cited numerous scientific studies on the harmful nature of pesticides to humans. Among them was Dr. Scott Maul, a physician, who pointed out that pesticides have been found to cause mutagenesis, causing cancer directly, and endocrine disruption, which can also lead to cancer.
Maul said he found pesticides associated with the following cancers:
- brain cancer
- breast cancer
- kidney cancer
- pancreatic cancer
- prostate cancer
- stomach cancer
- childhood cancers from exposure through parents working in chemical industries
"With that question of 'Why is it that the North Shore has so much cancer?" which is asked to me on a regular basis, this is an important meeting," Maul said. "We're not going to answer that question ... but we can help protect our children in the future."
Sandy Helman, who formerly worked for the EPA, said she was rather disturbed by the first pesticide spraying after she moved here with her family from Chicago in 2003.
"The half-lives of these chemicals range from five days to many weeks, even months," she said. "The chemicals don't magically disappear after they've dried."
She also mentioned some alternative solutions, such as white vinegar.
Nancy Sturino, who survived two cancers, railed against the , calling for a single set of standards. She compared this issue to the debate over banning indoor smoking in public places.
"They just didn't know how we would survive without having smoking in restaurants," Sturino said. "There's a cutting-edge notion that you cannot live without pesticides, but I think in the long run ... you have the opportunity to spearhead a movement in which you are promoting better health practices for the village."
Siegel did not say what the next step in the discussion would be, but she expressed appreciation for the tone of the evening's forum.
"I'm not sure what the next steps are, but thank you for coming tonight, and thank you for your comments," she said.