(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2009) The Connecticut and Illinois legislatures have passed bills increase the protection of children at day care centers from toxic lawn chemicals. While providing different degrees of protection, both bills, which build on their existing state school pesticide laws, passed with overwhelming support in both chambers of their General Assembly. The bills passed both legislatures on unanimous votes with the exceptiion of five dissenting votes in the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Connecticut State Representative Terrie Wood said, “We know that contact with pesticides and chemicals are not compatible with healthy living. It is time to err on the side of caution and ban these pesticides from use any place our children and grandchildren learn and play.”
The Connecticut bill, Pesticide Applications at Child Day Care Centers and Schools, extends the states’ existing law that prohibits the application of pesticides on kindergarten through 8th grade schools’ grounds to include day care center grounds as well. In addition, the bill requires only licensed pest control operators apply pesticides in day care center facilities or on their grounds. There is an exemption that allows general use pesticides to be used in an emergency situation when a pest, such as ticks, stinging insects or mosquitoes, pose an immediate threat to human health. Children are required to be kept away from any pesticide application area. Prior notification, including the name of the active ingredient, target pest, location and date of application, must be provided to all parents and guardians whose children attend the day care at least 24 hours before a pesticide application.
The bill delays the implementation date for banning the use of lawn chemicals on school athletic fields and playgrounds one year to July 1, 2010. Until then, schools must follow a state Integrated Pest Management program for the fields and playgrounds, which continues to allow some toxic chemical use.
The Illinois bill, Pesticide and Lawn Care Product Application, prohibits the application of pesticides when children are present at licensed day care centers and the treated area must remain unoccupied for at least 2 hours following the application. It also requires toys and other items to be removed from the application area. Day care centers must maintain a registry of parents and guardians who want to receive four-day advance notice of a pesticide application. In addition, the bill requires public schools provide four-day advance notice of lawn pesticide applications either by way of a registry or universal notification to parents and guardians of students attending the school. The Illinois Department of Public Health is directed to recommend a pesticide-free turf care program to all day care centers and public schools.
“It is critically important to protect children from pesticide exposure on their playgrounds and playing fields,” said Rachel Rosenberg, Safer Pest Control Project’s executive director. “Safer Pest Control Project applauds the Illinois legislators who passed this law unanimously in both Houses. This new law, which awaits Governor Quinn’s signature, will be a critical component of protecting children from early childhood exposures to pesticides. Pesticide free lawn care is easy and affordable, and we hope that this law inspires other states to take similar action.”
According to Beyond Pesticides research, 34 states have adopted laws that address pesticide use at schools and/or day care centers:
* 21 states recommend or require schools to use IPM;
* 16 states restrict when or what pesticide may be applied in schools;
* 17 states require posting of signs for indoor school pesticide applications;
* 26 states require posting of signs for pesticide application made on school grounds;
* 23 states require prior written notification to students, parents, or staff before a pesticide application is made to schools; and
* 7 states recognize the importance of controlling drift by restricting pesticide applications in areas neighboring a school.
Although these laws are instrumental in improving protections, Beyond Pesticides notes that truly protective state and local laws establish mandatory and comprehensive IPM programs that includes organic land management, bans the use of toxic pesticides for cosmetic/aesthetic purposes, and prohibits the use of hazardous pesticides, such as probable, possible or known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxins, developmental toxins, neurotoxins, and toxicity category I and II pesticides. The least toxic pesticide should only be used after non-chemical strategies have been tried. For a comprehensive review of state IPM laws and criteria for evaluation, see Ending Toxic Dependency.
While EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National PTA, among others, recommend schools adopt IPM programs, without minimum federal standards, such as the proposed School Environment Protection Act (SEPA), the protection provided children is uneven and inadequate across the country. SEPA provides basic levels of protection for children and school staff from the use of pesticides in public school buildings and on school grounds by requiring schools implement an IPM program, establishing a list of least-toxic pesticides to be used as a last resort, and requiring notification provisions when pesticides are used.
The vulnerability of infants and children to the harmful effects of pesticides has attracted national attention over the last decade. Schools from across the country document a growing trend to adopt safer pest management strategies that dramatically reduce pesticides in the schools, providing children with a healthier learning environment. Schools that have chosen to adopt such strategies, such as an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, use alternatives to the prevailing chemical-intensive practices because of the health risk such practices pose to children and other school users. A comprehensive IPM program is proven to be cost effective and yield better pest control results.
School and day care centers are places where children need a healthy body and a clear head in order to grow and learn. Children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposures as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Even at low levels, exposure to pesticides can cause serious adverse health effects. Numerous studies document that children exposed to pesticides suffer elevated rates of childhood leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma and brain cancer. Studies also link pesticides to childhood asthma, respiratory problems, and inability to concentrate.
TAKE ACTION: Encourage your school to adopt safer pest management practices. Find out about your school’s pest management/pesticide policy says. Where a policy already exists, make sure that it is being enforced. If your school does not have a policy in place, Beyond Pesticides can work with you and your school to ensure children are protected. School administrators will be more conscious of their pest management program if they know parents are concerned and tracking their program. For more information see Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools program page or contact Beyond Pesticides at firstname.lastname@example.org.