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From March 7, 2005

U.S. Youth Soccer Ejects TruGreen/Chemlawn
(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2005)
U.S. Youth Soccer (USYS) has quietly ended its sponsorship agreement with TruGreen/ChemLawn, after public interest groups and interested people from across the country launched a letter campaign to the soccer association asking that it not renew its agreement. As a part of the agreement TruGreen/Chemlawn was given access to the association’s mailing lists and sent mailings to “The Family of” young soccer players to promote the use of ChemLawn’s services. The mailings explicitly stated that TruGreen/ChemLawn would donate a percentage of each purchase to USYS. USYS ended the partnership without comment.

Josh Golin, program manager for Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), which spearheaded a letter and campaign to end the USYS-TruGreen/ChemLawn alliance, said that while USYS has no comment, “It is clear that the letter –and all of our efforts—played a key role in U.S. Soccer’s decision to end the partnership.” Mr. Golin said, “It is great that ChemLawn will no longer be able to exploit children's love of soccer to market toxic pesticides to families. And it is gratifying to see all of our efforts make a real difference.”

Thirty prominent children’s and environmental organizations sent a public letter in October 2004 to USYS asking them not to renew their sponsorship agreement with TruGreen/ChemLawn. Numerous individuals and grassroots organizations wrote letters of their own. The groups and people that wrote letters cited concerns about the exploitation of children in marketing hazardous products to them and their families.

At the time, Dr. Susan Linn, of Harvard’s Judge Baker Children’s Center and author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood said, “These mailings are not only a violation of children’s privacy, but a transparent attempt to get children to nag their parents for ChemLawn’s services.” Dr. Linn continued, “Marketers are constantly looking for ways to make it harder for parents to say no – in this case by equating support of their children’s soccer team with hiring a company to dump pesticides on their lawn.”

It has long been identified that children are more susceptible to the effects of pesticides than adults. In 1993 The National Academy of Sciences found that children are more susceptible to chemicals. The announcement followed several studies with similar conclusions including one published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1987, which found that children in households that use home and garden pesticides are 6.5 times at higher risk of developing leukemia. Other studies have since associated exposure to lawn pesticides with birth defects, liver and kidney damage, and neurological disorders. Today it is common knowledge that children are more likely to come into contact with lawn pesticides and are more vulnerable to their effects.

The letter was written by CCFC, formerly Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children, a national advocacy group that counters the harmful effects of marketing to children. Signatories included Beyond Pesticides and other organizations concerned about the harmful effects of pesticides and the commercialization of childhood.

The letter called on USYS to:

  • Protect children’s health by not renewing their sponsorship agreement with ChemLawn when the current agreement expires in December 2004.
  • Protect children’s privacy by refusing to share their contact information with USYS –or any other corporate sponsors.
  • Refrain from working with corporate partners whose products and/or practices may cause harm to children.

Editors Note: Thanks to all those who contacted U.S. Yourth Soccer on this issue.

TAKE ACTION: Please write a thank you note to U.S. Youth Soccer’s Director of Marketing Chris Branscome. For more information about the hazards of lawn and landscape chemicals, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes program page. To join Beyond Pesticides’ campaign to stop the aesthetic use of pesticides, contact Eileen Gunn.