(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2011) The Edison Elementary Green Team, a group of concerned parents in Denver, Colorado asked the Denver Public School Board Monday to stop the use of harmful chemicals. The group has been petitioning for almost a month now, collecting over 1,000 signatures of concerned parents and community members urging the school board to reconsider its contract with TruGreen ChemLawn which ends on July 1- tomorrow.
The issue began for Nicole Baumann, one of the concerned parents who started the petition, when she heard other parents describe an incident when TruGreen sprayed the herbicide 2,4-D on school grounds while kids were playing soccer and parents were standing outside waiting to pick up their children. School officials say they do not know what happened that day; however Trena Deane, executive director of facilities management for Denver Public Schools (DPS) told Education News Colorado that they have no reason to believe TruGreen was misapplying them, and that the chemicals are typically not toxic unless they are used inappropriately.
“These kids are rolling around in the grass,” Ms. Baumann told Change.org. “Our kids’ immune systems are not really developed yet. They’re susceptible. Why would we knowingly apply this where our kids are playing in the grass when we know there are other options out there that are safe?”
School is a place where children need a healthy body and a clear head in order to learn. Numerous scientific studies find that pesticides typically used in schools are linked to chronic health effects such as cancer, asthma, neurological and immune system diseases, reproductive problems, and developmental and learning disabilities. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in schools has proven to be an effective and economical method of pest management that can prevent pest problems and eliminate the use of hazardous pesticides in school buildings and on school grounds.
2,4-D has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, kidney and liver damage, is neurotoxic and toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2,4-D than those who don’t; dogs whose owners use 2,4-D on their lawns are more likely to develop canine malignant lymphoma than those whose owners do not. Despite the known health and environmental effects of 2,4-D, it is the top selling herbicide for non-agricultural use, such as lawns, in the United States. It is also the fifth most commonly used herbicide in the agricultural sector and total annual usage in the U.S. tops 40 million pounds.
Children are especially sensitive and vulnerable to pesticides because of their rapid development and behavior patterns. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation, may appear even when a pesticide is applied according to label directions. Pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system and have been shown to cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms. Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma. Because most of the symptoms of pesticide exposure, from respiratory distress to difficulty in concentration, are common in school children and may also have other causes, pesticide-related illnesses often go unrecognized and unreported.
Many communities across the country have taken a stand against the use of toxic pesticides on their lawns and landscapes. Last year, the state of New York passed the Child Safe Playing Fields Act (A 7937-C) prohibiting the use of toxic pesticides on school and daycare center playgrounds, turf, athletic and playing fields. Recently, a bill to prohibit the use of most lawn pesticides on public and private playgrounds, recreation fields and daycare centers in New Jersey, The Child Safe Playing Field Act has passed the Senate Budget Committee and is awaiting posting in the Senate. This bill will support the over 30 communities in New Jersey that have made their parks pesticide-free zones and have adopted an IPM program for managing town property by passing a resolution adopting a pesticide reduction policy. Connecticut and Illinois have also moved forward to reduce children’s exposures to lawn pesticides.
“This is not an easy task for an overnight fix,” said Ms. Bauman to EdNews. “But a lot of places have eliminated pesticide use. We’d like to offer our support in making this happen.”
Take Action (Locally-Denver Region): Read and Sign the Petition by the Edison Elementary Green Team to stop the use of pesticides with harmful chemicals at Denver Public Schools.
Take Action (Nationally): It is time for a national policy that would protect every child in the United States from pesticide exposure at school. Federal legislation, the School Environment Protection Act of 2009 (SEPA), has been introduced by Rep. Rush Holt and would protect school children from pesticides used both indoors and on all school grounds nationwide. The legislation also bans the use of synthetic fertilizers. To learn more about this legislation and help its passage, see Beyond Pesticides’ SEPA webpage.
Sources: Change.org, Education News Colorado