Don’t Spray Me! Report for 2017

First, we got some good coverage in 2017 (as in 2016) in the Daily Local News. See “Area teens find organic solution for killing weeds in sidewalks,” 7/17/17, and “‘Don’t Spray Me!’ holds rally in West Chester,” 8/28/17.

Our 5-page report can be downloaded here: DSM report 2017 12-3-17. It includes the following topics:

Spraying, larviciding, and storm drains

West Chester got through another summer with no Chester County Health Department spraying, but East Bradford, Downingtown, Birmingham, Thornbury, and Spring City were not so fortunate. It was a difficult summer with heat and lots of rain and in some areas residents reported more mosquitoes than in 2016.

We would like to emphasize preventive measures and are pressing for more thorough-going inspection, repair, and larviciding of storm drains wherever they exist. We believe that storm drains and sluggish natural water in dry weather are now the main sources of mosquitoes here. We plan to continue to emphasize the Block Captain model in West Chester.

East Bradford report

Lots of progress coming from the town’s Environmental Advisory Council and municipal staff; and residents and homeowner associations started to be more active.

Other accomplishments and victories in 2017

– a March for the Environment, following speakers in the center of West Chester, with 250 people

– an experiment in which our “Sierra Club Youth Corps” of high school students showed that a non-toxic solution is effective in fighting weeds in brick sidewalks

– two celebratory community picnics in May and in September, with other local groups

– an environmental film series at West Chester University in the fall, emphasizing toxic chemicals

Goals for 2018

Work with municipalities and the County on community education.

Emphasize larviciding, the most effective form of mosquito control.

Understand better the Vector Index used as a guide to spraying by the County and work toward raised thresholds.

Institute an “Adopt a Storm Drain” program.

Start up new DSM chapters.

A new model of yard signs.

Programs: Jan. 21 environmental justice film, Feb. 25 panel on environmental and climate change, Earth Day gathering and march on Sunday April 22, summer community event, May and Sept. celebrations in Everhart Park, Green Lawns event in fall.

A summer intern helping implement outreach, mosquito control, and larviciding goals.


“The Wisdom to Survive”

blog by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 12/13/17

About 70 people gathered on Thursday evening December 7 to view “The Wisdom to Survive,” the final film of the fall in the West Chester University Environmental Sustainability Film Series in memory of Graham Hudgings.

The hour-long documentary at WCU’s new LEED gold-certified Business and Public Management Center was sponsored by Don’t Spray Me!, Sierra Club of Chester County, West Chester Food Co-op, WCU’s Office of Sustainability and Sustainability Advisory Council, the WCU Geography Club, and Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP).

Audience gathers for the film (Photo by Taka Nagai)

After snacks from the Food Co-op, a tour of the new LEED-certified building, and conversation over environmental exhibits, MC Sheila Burke introduced featured speaker Elizabeth Moro, Pennsbury resident and co-founder of Neighbors For Crebilly, which is striving to preserve the large farm south of West Chester as open space. A long-time supporter of environmental actions, Elizabeth was energized by the current political morass to the extent that she is running for the PA 7th U.S. Congressional seat.

Elizabeth explained that she grew up near Lake Huron, where she learned that “Mother Nature doesn’t negotiate – she’s in charge.” Humans used to work in harmony with nature, but now we need to get back to seeing the big picture that we are part of. Money is not a good way to evaluate importance. Try holding your breath, she told the group, and see at what point you’d rather draw a breath than collect money. She has helped raise funds to preserve part of the headwaters of the Brandywine near Honey Brook, Barnard’s Orchard in Pocopson, and now Crebilly Farm in Westtown.

She quoted Margaret Meade: ”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”…

read more of the introduction, film, and discussion at Politics: A View from West Chester

History of Don’t Spray Me!

Don’t Spray Me! was founded in September 2015 by residents of West Chester PA and surrounding communities to raise awareness about the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals in the environment. We soon started working within the Sustainability Committee of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Group of the Sierra Club, and then reached out to local groups that share our environmental concerns.

Our logo is a baby in a gas mask that was featured in our first yard signs (on the right below) in 2016. We introduced our “Happy Baby” signs (on the left below) in 2017 for those who wish to emphasize that in West Chester and many other locations we had in fact not been sprayed. Our signs symbolize our desire to protect the environment and people, particularly the young, who are most vulnerable from the dangers of chemical poisons.

With the support of our mayor at the time, Carolyn Comitta, and our Borough Council, we won our first victory when the threatened spraying of Permanone in the northeast section of West Chester borough was avoided in 2015. Borough officials agreed with us that the small risk of West Nile Virus was not worth risking the health of thousands of borough residents and the associated environmental damage, including the killing of bees and other beneficial insects, the poisoning of run-off water, and the danger to pets.

We are now a group of about 250 concerned citizens with teams in West Chester Borough, East Bradford, West Goshen and Westtown working in our neighborhoods on these important environmental issues, and we will be reaching out in other municipalities in 2018. We have branched out successfully into ending Roundup use by the Borough government. We have also educated citizens through the Sierra Club Youth Corps’s work on killing weeds in sidewalks without toxic chemicals. In implementing community education, we organize two community picnics in the summer and cosponsored an environmental film festival at West Chester University in the fall of 2017. We have big plans for events in 2018.

We are in agreement with the large and growing body of research showing that spraying airborne pesticides for mosquito control poses serious threats to the environment and human health and is the least effective form of mosquito control. We favor non-toxic measures, such as larviciding and reducing mosquito breeding sites by education of residents. We are following the lead of many communities across the nation that have banned spraying for mosquitoes, some more than 15 years ago, with no adverse human health consequences. The resolution in Lyndhurst OH and the plan in Shaker Heights OH have inspired our work here in Chester County PA. We are also following the lead of the state of California in warning people about the dangers of RoundUp/glysophate. Young people are interested and involved in all these efforts and the Sierra Club is an essential national leader.

Our very recognizable signs have been very successful in getting out our message, with about 350 in place across the County during the mosquito season.

We urge all municipalities to examine these issues, to create detailed plans to control mosquitoes without spray, and thus to protect residents and the environment.

West Chester educates the public about pesticides

by Alexa Brennan, The Quad, West Chester University, October 15, 2017

For decades American society has had a substance that could be sprayed on properties to decrease homeowners’ chances of contracting a mosquito-borne illness. However, this substance has met controversy as it could have long lasting negative effects on your health and other living beings, such as: bees, butterflies, dragonflies, cats, frogs, small children and hyper-allergic individuals. Given that risk, some argue that we shouldn’t spray. Don’t Spray Me is an organization in Chester County that fights to stop the use of dangerous pesticides; instead, they educate the community on safer and more effective means of controlling mosquitoes.

Throughout the Borough of West Chester, their lawn signage can be seen. It features a cartoon baby in a gas mask. When looking for a logo, Founder Margaret Hudgings wanted to find something that represented the dangers pesticide spraying had on children, so she searched Google Images for “baby in gas mask” and that image popped up. They got permission from Slovenian artist Daniel Ferencak to use his work, and that is how the baby in the gas mask came about.

Pesticide spraying can be life threatening. These pesticides have been linked with Autism, ADHD, Parkinsons and other kinds of cancers. Hudgings lost her son, Graham, to multiple chemical sensitivity due to spraying. “My son died five months ago after being sick for over 20 years from exposure to pesticide spraying,” said Hudgings. This has been a huge motivation for her and she is passionate about educating others….

read more at The Quad

Environmental Film Series: “Unacceptable Levels”

“Unacceptable Levels” (which should lead us all to scrutinize anew the pesticide residues in what we eat, drink, and breathe) was shown on Sept. 14, 2017, sponsored by the Sierra Club, Don’t Spray Me!, the WCU Sustainability Program, the WCU Geography & Planning Club, and 4CP, in memory of Graham Hudgings.

Included were an Introduction by State Rep. Carolyn Comitta and Q&A led by Dr. Joan Welch of WCU, as well as food and granting of awards by Dianne Herrin, chair of the West Chester Sustainability Advisory Committee. Photos by Taka Nagai:

‘Don’t Spray Me!’ holds rally in West Chester

by Bill Rettew, Daily Local News, 8/28/17

WEST CHESTER >> With a goal of eliminating chemical spraying for mosquitoes by local municipalities, more than two dozen activists rallied Saturday at the historic courthouse.

Several children were involved. They donned gas masks and held signs reading, “Don’t kill our bees and butterflies,” and “Sprayed pesticides harm pollination.”

The grassroots group, “Don’t Spray Me!” began in the borough three summers ago.

“We had a town meeting when we heard that they were going to spray,” state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, said. “People said ‘No.’ What can we do to avoid spraying?”

Comitta was mayor at the time and said that from those first steps, a West Nile task force committee was created in West Chester. For whatever reason, since the task force was formed, there has been no spraying for mosquitoes in West Chester….

read more at Daily Local News
Grassroots organization “Don’t Spray Me!” rallied at the Historic Chester County Courthouse in West Chester Saturday. BILL RETTEW JR. – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

Grassroots organization “Don’t Spray Me!” rallied at the Historic Chester County Courthouse in West Chester Saturday. BILL RETTEW JR. – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

Don’t Spray Me / Sierra Club Demonstration against spraying

When: Saturday, August 26, at noon–right after the peace vigil

Where: Chester County Court House, High and Market Sts, West Chester

Who: All of us with State Rep. Carolyn Comitta and others addressing us

Why: The Chesco Health Department has produced no evidence that spraying reduces West Nile disease and we know it can kill bees and fish and harm people but still they are spraying anyhow! Costs are high, benefits lacking.

Latest municipalities targeted for spraying: Downingtown and East Caln, Thursday Aug. 24. If you live there, please see here and see if you can help us on the needed observations.

Next communities to be sprayed: who knows?

Educate and larvicide but Don’t Spray Us!

Please come and bring friends and relatives, and a sign if you can.

Unity in Community Picnic: Sunday Sept. 3

N.b. as of 10 a.m., the forecast for 4-6 p.m. TODAY is: PARTLY SUNNY.

We cordially invite you to an end-of-summer Unity in Community Picnic, sponsored by the Sierra Club Sustainability Committee, Don’t Spray Me! and the West Chester Food Co-op–3 groups working together for people and the environment.

This celebration of growth–both in the number of Don’t Spray Me! supporters and in public consciousness of our message–will take place on Sunday, September 3, from 4 to 6 p.m., in Everhart Park, on the Union St. side, between S. Brandywine St. and S. Bradford Ave., West Chester Borough. (Rain date: Labor Day, Monday Sept. 4.)

We are happy to be able to offer free frozen yogurt for kids from Whirled Peace Frozen Yogurt, sponsored by DSM, Sierra Club, Carolyn and Tom Comitta, Margaret and Jim Hudgings, and Thriving Pets. Others are welcome to purchase frozen yogurt from the truck.

Come learn about Bat House-making, get the kids involved in fun environmental games, enjoy sample food from the Food Co-op, experience demonstrations such as Tai Chi and Yoga, see Sierra Club displays, and be in plenty of good company. Please bring your picnic and utensils.

We also commemorate the life of Graham Hudgings, an inspiration to our founding and all of our activities and a long-time sufferer from multiple chemical hypersensitivities, who tragically left us earlier this year.

For more information contact Margaret Hudgings at or 610-692-3849.

Memorial Service for Graham Hudgings June 23

The Hudgings family cordially invites all supporters of Don’t Spray Me  to the memorial service for Graham Hudgings on Friday June 23rd in the meeting house on the campus of Westtown School at 11 in the morning.
The meeting house is not air conditioned so dress lightly and wear business casual. Dragons baseball players can wear their jerseys. Baseball hats can be worn after the service.
At the reception, kids are welcome to use the nearby fields to play wiffle ball. I will have all the equipment. Hopefully the weather will be good. Graham always wanted any event to be kid-friendly and informal so we hope that we will accomplish both!

The reception is adjacent to the meeting house and is air conditioned. There will be signs to direct traffic and attendants to assist with parking. There will be parking right in front of the meeting house for those that have mobility issues.

You can view this link for campus map and parking info.

See more about Graham here.

Don’t Spray Me & Sierra Club picnic & celebration

Thank you to all who were able to come to the Don’t Spray Me & Sierra Club picnic & celebration in Everhart Park on Sunday May 28.  Defending our environment and health is not all work! We are expanding our network of conscientious citizens and have been reaching out effectively beyond West Chester Borough.

Here are a few photos of the event.

Decorated bicycles:

Mosquito-repelling plants, courtesy of master gardener Halyna Church:

Jim Wylie prepares participants for  a “Clean Energy for All” photo promoting Sierra Club‘s “Ready for 100” initiative:

Clean Energy for All: