New York governor signs pesticide neighbor notification law

SYOSSET, N.Y. - Nicole Hudson was gardening outside her Farmingville home when she spied a white cloud with a noxious odor wafting over from her neighbor's yard.

As the mix of chemicals floated toward an open bedroom of her house where her newborn slept, Hudson called over to the worker who was clad in protective gear.

''Don't worry about it lady, I'm done already,'' he yelled back.

In horror, she raced upstairs to find her baby, who was crying. The child was later treated for allergic reaction to a toxic chemical. Hudson was told to destroy the baby's linens.

Hudson's story helped pass legislation aimed at protecting New York residents against the possible harmful effects of pesticide spraying by neighbors.

The law allows counties to require companies that use pesticides to give at least a 48-hour warning to neighbors living within 150 feet of any spraying site. It also requires schools and day care facilities to provide parents and staff with a notice before pesticides are applied on school grounds.

Counties will have to adopt legislation if they want to conform to the new state law.

Gov. George Pataki on Monday signed the bill, which advocates say is the nation's first law of its kind. The neighbor notification law goes into effect March 1, 2001.

''Every neighbor will now know to take in the wash, close the windows, and not have the kids roll around in the yard,'' Pataki said at the bill signing ceremony in the Willets Elementary school yard.

''This is a great victory for the health and safety of our residents,'' Neal Lewis, head of the Nassau-Suffolk Neighborhood Network, who first suggested the legislation after hearing Hudson's story in 1992.

Notices must contain information regarding the date and location of applications, as well as the name of the product being applied. The law allows exemptions for more than 30 specific types of pesticides with a low toxicity, such as boric acid and horticultural oils, and for pesticide applications to cemeteries and spot treatments of less than 9 square feet.

Lewis said at least seven states allow residents to register with the state if they want to be notified about pesticide spraying near their home. But New York will become the first to require residents of adjacent properties to be warned ahead of time, he said.

''I hope that this bill will set the standard for states throughout the country,'' said State Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Plainview, who cosponsored the bill with Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, D-Thomaston.

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On the Net:

Long Island Neighborhood Network: http://www.longislandnn.org

Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org

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