(Beyond Pesticides, January 6, 2011) A law in the state of New Jersey aimed at protecting children by prohibiting pesticides on school grounds has advanced in the state’s General Assembly. Public health and environmental advocates are hoping that the bill will be considered by the full legislature within the next week, before the legislative session adjourns. Just prior to the holidays, the bill was released by the Environment and Solid Waste Committee of the New Jersey General Assembly. The current legislative session ends on Monday January, 9th and the bill must be approved before then, or it will need to be reintroduced in the legislature’s next session.
The Safe Playing Fields Act mirrors similar laws in nearby Connecticut and New York State and is designed to ensure that children have a healthy and safe place for outdoor activities while at school. If enacted, it would prohibit the use of lawn care pesticides on all school playgrounds and on recreational fields of schools that have children in grades K-8, except as an emergency response to an immediate threat to human health, as determined by the municipal or county governing body in consultation with the local health officer or if required by law. The bill also directs the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, to adopt rules and regulations concerning pesticide application, record keeping, and staff and parental notification procedures at child care centers with the goal of mitigating potential health risks to young children.
According to a statement from the committee, the bill also restricts access to an area that has been treated with an emergency pesticide for at least seven hours following application. The only pesticides excluded from the prohibition is a small class of “low impact pesticides.”
To learn more about children and pesticides, visit our program page.
In NJ: Currently, the bill has 44 co-sponsors in the Assembly and Senate. If you are located in New Jersey, you can go here to find your legislators and ask them to support the bill. You can also contact the offices of Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Senate President Steve Sweeney and urge them to ensure that bill is brought up for consideration in the current legislative session.
Children need better protection from toxic chemical exposure while at school. Numerous scientific studies find that pesticides used in schools are linked to cancer, asthma and other health problems. A 2010 Harvard University study links everyday pesticide exposure to ADHD. While some states have taken limited action to protect children from pesticides in schools, these policies represent a patchwork of laws that are uneven and inadequate. The School Environment Protection Act (SEPA) establishes a minimum national standard to protect kids in their places of learning. Please ask your U.S. Representative to contact Rep. Holt to sign-on as an original SEPA co-sponsor.
It is time that our nation embraces a basic protection to ensure a healthy learning environment. Please see the chart in the Schooling of State Pesticides Laws-2010 report to see if your state requires some form of protection from pesticides in its schools. If your Rep. needs further information, please direct them to Beyond Pesticides’ SEPA webpage with bill text, summary, Mr. Holt’s “Dear Colleague” letter, and other useful information.
Image credit: Bryan Littel
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.