(Beyond Pesticides, October 27, 2016) Lawmakers in the New Jersey House and Senate introduced bills this legislative session to stop the use of toxic lawn care pesticides on children’s playing fields. The Safe Playing Fields Act, introduced by Representatives Daniel Benson (D) and Holly Schepisi (R) in the New Jersey Assembly and Senator Shirley Turner (D) in the Senate will eliminate the use of toxic registered pesticides on school grounds in favor of “low impact pesticides” considered minimum risk by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is the latest legislative push to pass this Act after attempts in 2011 and 2012.
The bill is modeled on similar efforts that have been successfully implemented in the states of New York and Connecticut. Connecticut first passed An Act Concerning Pesticides at Schools and Day Care Facilities in 2005, which restricted toxic pesticide use on elementary school grounds in the state. The act has been amended multiple times. First in 2007, An Act Banning Pesticide Use on School Grounds extended prohibitions to students in schools up to grade 8. In 2009, Connecticut’s law was amended again to extend pesticide protections to day care centers. Last year, the state passed another update, this time banning toxic lawn care chemicals on municipal playgrounds. New York’s Child Safe Playing Fields Act also restricts toxic pesticides at day care centers, preschools, and on school grounds, applying these protections to all students, from kindergarten through high school. Under these laws, use of toxic registered pesticides is only permitted if there is an emergency deemed threatening to human health, and it is approved by school administrators.
Updates to laws that protect New Jersey school children from toxic pesticides are long overdue. During 2012 legislative efforts to pass this measure, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly endorsed the Act, writing in part, “”¦the past decade has seen an expansion of the evidence showing adverse effects after chronic pesticide exposure in children. The strongest links between pesticides and health effects to children involve pediatric cancer and adverse neuro-development. However, low birth weight, preterm birth, congenital abnormalities, cognitive deficits and asthma at times are pesticide-induced.”
Children are much more sensitive than adults to pesticide exposure because they take in more of a pesticide relative to adults and have developing bodies and organ systems. Children often have more intimate exposure to pesticides through playing and hand to mouth activities. Beyond Pesticides actively documents evidence of the danger pesticides pose to children through our Pesticide Induced Diseases Database, and through fact sheets like Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix and Pesticides and Playing Fields.
Beyond the danger these chemicals pose to children is the fact that toxic pesticides are simply not necessary in order to control weeds and pests that do cosmetic damage to fields and playgrounds. While certainly many parents do not feel that it is worth trading their child’s health for an aesthetically pleasing field or landscape, the fact is that those sort of trade-offs are not necessary when grounds are managed through a natural systems approach. Natural or organic turf management starts with improving the health of the soil, and focuses on managing turf through cultural practices and natural inputs. Guided by a soil test, this approach includes practices such as correcting pH and nutrient imbalances, amending soil through compost or compost tea, and a focus on proper mowing height, aeration, overseeding, and adequate watering. It is Beyond Pesticides’ experience and the experience of states like New York, Connecticut, and communities across the country that this approach is successful when properly implemented.
If you want to get involved in efforts to protect kids at school from toxic pesticides, such as the efforts underway right now in New Jersey or Minneapolis, MN, contact Beyond Pesticides by calling the office at 202-543-5450 or email at email@example.com.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.