Community Action Works
Community Action Works


Take the pesticide-free pledge! Pesticides harm more than the weeds and pests they’re designed to kill. Your commitment to a safe and healthy environment makes a difference. Take the pledge to go pesticide-free today!

The Problems With Pesticides

Pesticides can be found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. They are found in our soil and even in our breast milk. These pesticides are the only toxic substances released intentionally into our environment to kill living things: to kill weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungi (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), and others. They are used almost everywhere — not only in agricultural fields, but also in homes, parks, schools, lakes, forests, and roads.

Since the publication of Rachel Carson’s landmark 1962 book Silent Spring, which reveals the horrifying impacts of pesticides like DDT, scientists are continually discovering new and disturbing ways that pesticides threaten our environment and our health.


Pesticides are incredibly harmful to human health. Pesticides have been proven to cause reproductive and developmental effects, cancer, kidney and liver damage, endocrine disruption, etc. People are exposed to pesticides when they breathe air where pesticides have been sprayed, drink contaminated water, or come into contact with areas where pesticides have been used, such as lawns, parks, lakes and more. 

Children, whose bodies are still developing, are particularly vulnerable. They take in pesticides at home and daycare and at schools and playgrounds, as kids are more likely to crawl on the ground and put their contaminated hands in their mouths. Research shows that children are even exposed to pesticides in utero. One of these pesticides, chlorpyrifos, has been found to cause irreversible brain damage in infants when they are exposed to the insecticide during this period.

  • South Portland, Maine: Community Action Works helped Protect South Portland pass one of the strongest pesticides restrictions in the country, an ordinance banning the use of harmful pesticides. The ordinance has come into effect in the City over three years, starting in Spring 2017 with City property, then in 2018 with residential property, and finally in 2019 with golf courses. (Learn more in our Maine Pesticide Organizing Playbook.)

People and families working on and living near industrial farms are some of the most at-risk populations of these health problems and are some of the least protected workers in the US. Farmworkers often suffer from short-term effects such as blindness, coma, and death as well as long-term effects like infertility, birth defects, and cancer.

  • Champlain Valley, Vermont: We worked with residents to successfully limit the spraying of pesticides to control mosquitoes on farms, schools and waterways. By transitioning to safer, nontoxic methods, residents worked to ensure this toxic spraying no longer threatened their community.


Food Systems:

Pesticides can also contaminate our food, harm pollinators, and threaten our ecosystems. Pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids (or neonics), are killing the pollinators we depend on to support our food systems: bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, and more.

  • With Community Action Works’s support, more than 65 garden retailers made commitments to restrict the use of pesticides, including major national and international companies like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Costco, and True Value.

Corporate Profit:

Pesticides are immensely profitable for the corporations who manufacture them. The chemical industry is led by powerful corporations that market pesticides as “solutions.” Meanwhile, these corporations are doubling down to stifle research and pressure the U.S. administration to scrap studies about the harms of pesticides.

Pesticides Solutions:

The real solutions lie in non-toxic and cultural methods, not pesticides. Organically grown foods and sustainable methods of pest control are key to our families’ health and the health of the environment. At Community Action Works, we work with communities to implement these methods. Our goals include:

  • Reducing pesticide use
  • Fighting for the right to know who is using chemicals, where, when, how, what pesticides are being used, and why
  • Protecting our communities, workers, and children
  • Pushing for better testing
  • Ensuring the health of our pollinators and food systems

Solutions for Pesticide-Free Communities:

Here are some helpful resources to ensure your community is pesticide-free.

Pesticide Organizing Playbook: Maine [pdf]
The Pesticide Organizing Playbook is a step-by-step guide to passing a strong pesticide ordinance in your community, specifically for cities and towns in Maine.

Protecting Pollinators [pdf]
We rely on bees to fertilize most crops. No bees means no food. Learn what you can do in your community to protect pollinators.

Pesticide-free Playing Fields [pdf]
Outdoor recreation shouldn’t be a health hazard! Children spend much of the day outdoors at school. When treated with chemical pesticides, playing fields are among the highest sources of toxics exposure for kids.

Chemical-free Lawncare [pdf]
Pesticides are not necessary for lawn care. Learn how you can maintain a healthy lawn.

Non-toxic Lake Management [pdf]
Pesticides interfere with the survival of aquatic life by contaminating food sources, and small changes can impact the entire food chain and environment. Learn more about keeping lakes safe from pesticides.

Toxins in the Garden [pdf]
Science shows that pesticide use puts family and community health at risk. Learn how you can keep your garden healthy.

Want to Make a Difference in Massachusetts?

Community Action Works co-facilitates the statewide Community Pesticide Reduction (CPR) Network with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA/Mass). It’s a space for residents across the state who are concerned about pesticides to come together, learn from each other, share resources and tactics, and build a powerful movement across the state. The CPR Network holds monthly meetings that provide training on organizing skills (like recruitment, prepping for a town meeting, messaging, and more) for municipal action and plug folks into the latest policy efforts at the state level. To learn more, contact us at