Audrey Thier, a pesticide project director from Albany, says scientific findings show serious human health and environmental effects relating to the use of pesticides.
Speaking Friday at a public health forum addressing issues of pesticides and other health concerns, she said people who apply pesticides pose risks to themselves and members of the community.
"Are (pesticides) the healthiest way to get rid of your dandelions?" asked David Hahn-Baker, chairman of the Buffalo Pest Management Board. "If you have dandelions in your yard, is that such a terrible thing?"
Hahn-Baker and other specialists were members of a panel at the forum held at the University at Buffalo North Campus that was hosted by State Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Amherst.
Research from 1998 shows that counties with large populations have the highest pesticide use, Thier said.
Urban and suburban counties used higher amounts than upstate and rural counties, which are mostly made up of farmland, she added.
A solution might be to find an effective way to broaden public knowledge and get people to change their ways, Hahn-Baker said.
"First, do no harm," he said. "If you don't know if it's harmful, don't use it."
The ad hoc meeting was sponsored by the Cornell University program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors in New York State, a research and education group focused on issues related to cancer and the environment.
Rodney Dietent, director of the research group, said the meetings were important because the issues raised have led to more outreach and educational efforts.
"Important issues raised here today could lead to next year's efforts," said Dietent. "This program covers all environmental factors deliberately because you have to address everything."