WINDHAM— In a recent Maine Voices column, “Portland must approve proposal to ban synthetic pesticides, fertilizers” (Sept. 11), the author cites experts to support the wholesale ban of all synthetic pesticides within the city proper.

While I would agree that a more measured approach is required to protect human health and the environment from unnecessary sources of chemical exposure, including applications for cosmetic or aesthetic purposes, exceptions must be considered for the health and well-being of the public at large.

The author mentions the forward-thinking town of Ogunquit as a model for other communities. I support that language.

Here’s a closer look at the ordinance. Title II of the Ogunquit Municipal Code, Health, Safety & Welfare, Chapter 11 reads: “Pesticide/Herbicide Usages, 1104: Restricted pesticides may also be applied for the following purposes: … 4. Health and Safety – The control of insects that are venomous or disease carrying” (this includes ticks and mosquitoes).

The Ogunquit ordinance is modeled after that of Ontario, which has the most comprehensive restrictions on lawn and garden pesticides in North America. Its exemption language is similar: “Pesticides used to control animals that bite, sting, are venomous, or carry disease are also exempted from the ban, including insect repellents and wasp sprays.”

Lyme disease, endemic in the state of Maine, is the most frequently reported vector-borne illness in the United States. In some areas of southern Maine, as many as 40 percent to 70 percent of black-legged ticks (deer ticks) are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease numbers continue to climb. In 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 36,000 confirmed and probable cases throughout the U.S. Maine accounted for nearly 1,400 of those cases, with the third-highest incidence rate in the country.

Also in 2013, the CDC confirmed that the actual number of cases is likely 10 times that reported, or over 300,000 cases nationally.

“Tick Management Handbook” author Kirby Stafford, chief scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station, recommends “targeted applications of least-toxic chemistry to high-risk tick habitat – all in conjunction with tick checks and other personal protective measures to reduce the number of infected ticks and number of tick bites.”

In addition, the CDC’s website recommends using a professional pesticide company to apply pesticides at your home.

Area applications are but one method employed by professionals who embrace elements of integrated pest management to reduce the tick population on or near one’s property.

Integrated pest management landscape modifications include:

 Keeping your lawn mowed.

Letting the sunshine in (deer ticks require a damp environment and dry up when exposed to direct sunlight).

Keeping children’s play areas away from the wooded edge.

Removing leaf litter and brush from your property and the perimeter.

Performing multiple tick checks daily after outdoor activities, especially on children (children ages 5-14 have the highest incidence of Lyme).

In short, avoid tick habitat – prevention is the best prescription!

The ongoing concern regarding the use of synthetic pesticides centers on unnecessary exposure, the threat of waterway pollution and the potential impact on pollinator health.

The integrated pest management chemistry used in targeted applications to treat vector-borne insects and arthropods is not classified as a neonicotinoid (which have been linked to a decline in the honeybee population).

What’s more, the product bonds directly to the turf (no run-off) and does not leach into the groundwater. Once dry, it’s stable, similar to an application of latex paint on your walls.

Integrated pest-management tick treatments target the perimeter of the property, including leaf litter and dense vegetation. If an established tick population is there, a specific lawn treatment may be required.

Other areas of concern would be areas of leaf litter; deciduous canopy; proximity to stone walls, where rodent activity is high; an abundance of low ground cover and very little direct sunlight.

Education, awareness and employing elements of integrated pest management are key in reducing tick-borne diseases. The properly timed and selective application of least-toxic chemistry, coupled with personal protection strategies, will serve to better protect the public at large.

Consider a measured approach rather than enacting an ordinance to ban all synthetic pesticides.