(Beyond Pesticides, October 17, 2012) Concerned parents in Durango, Colorado created uproar last week when they discovered a synthetic weed killer containing at least two possible carcinogens would be applied to the athletic fields before Saturday’s games. Though the city enacted the Organically Managed Lands Program last month, the current season’s contracts with pest control companies have not yet been canceled. However, it seems that the efforts of local organizers and the city council have still left an impression on parents, and the city decided to at least postpone all youth soccer games that were scheduled after the spray.
“I believe these chemicals are harmful, and it’s best for my son not to be exposed to them,” said Sheryl McGourty, one of the mothers who, according to The Huffington Post, wrote to Durango Parks and Recreation with her concerns.
The parents in Durango are right to be concerned about potentially exposing their children to chemicals. The herbicide that was slated to be used on the Durango soccer fields, Vessel, has three active chemical ingredients, 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop-p (MCCP). A dog recently died in Utah after inhaling the pesticide Trupower which has the same three active ingredients. 2,4-D and MCPP both have increased cancer risks in association with their use. 2,4-D is especially associated with soft tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dicamba is also associated with developmental and reproductive health problems.
These chemicals on their own are all toxic and can have negative health effects but combined they have even greater synergistic effects. What is more alarming is the combination of these chemicals makes them more harmful to human health. Synergistic effects between multiple pesticides and/or other chemicals represent one of the greatest gaps in EPA’s ability to protect the public from the adverse health effects associated with pesticide use and exposure. Given that there are over 875 active ingredients currently registered for use, it is difficult to test all possible combinations.
Pesticides are especially detrimental to the health of children than they are to adults. Children take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Academy of Sciences, and American Public Health Association, among others, have voiced concerns about the danger that pesticides pose to children. A growing body of evidence in scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels.
Many communities across the country have taken a stand against the use of toxic pesticides on their lawns and landscapes. Durango’s organic land management policy is based on Beyond Pesticides’ model policy and focuses on developing healthy soil, resorting to minimum risk pesticides only after all other methods of control have been exhausted. This summer, Richmond, CA approved a pesticide reform ordinance targeting the use of toxic chemical pesticides within city boundaries. Washington D.C. also recently passed legislation which restricts the use of pesticides on District property, near waterways, and in schools and day care centers. While stopping short of an all-out ban, Connecticut currently has a statewide prohibition on the use of toxic pesticides on school grounds. The state of New York also acted to protect children by passing the “Child Safe Playing Field Act” in 2010, which requires that all schools, preschools, and day care centers stop using pesticides on any playgrounds or playing field.
In addition to creating local policies, community members across the country have rallied to stop pesticides from being sprayed. Members of the grassroots group Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) successfully stopped pesticide use on local parks by attending town meetings and discussing their concerns. In Boulder, CO, children lead a rally to protest the approval of two pesticides on city parks.
The actions of the parents and community members in Durango sends a great message to get involved in your local government and voice your concerns to effect change! For more information on what you can do to eliminate unnecessary pesticide use in your community, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Lawn and Landscapes program page.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.