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Daily News Archives
From May 6, 2005

Physician Pleads To End Needless Exposure to Sports Field Toxins
(Beyond Pesticides, May 6, 2005)
Richard N. Ash, M.D., internal medicine specialist and a leader in the field of environmental medicine, railed out against the continued use of chemical fertilizers in all sports fields used by America's youth in an April 28th press statement. “The unprecedented, exposure to heavily-fertilized fields and lawns puts children at higher risk for numerous potentially-serious health problems including skin and eye irritations, digestive problems, asthma attacks, rashes and other allergic reactions, as well as the unknown," says Dr. Ash. He currently practices medicine at The Ash Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York, NY.

Enraged that these fertilizers are still being used, years after toxic contaminants were first discovered, Dr. Ash pointed to the 2001 report, Holding the Bag: How Toxic Waste in Fertilizer Fails Farmers and Gardeners, by Washington Toxics Coalition. The report reveals the results of independent testing conducted by the Washington Toxics Coalition and Dr. Bill Liebhardt of the University of California at Davis. The study focused on zinc fertilizers because many are made from hazardous waste and the water solubility of zinc content is a clear measure of effectiveness. Zinc is considered a key micronutrient necessary for plant growth.

The report found that: most fertilizers are still contaminated with heavy metals. Of the 26 fertilizers tested, 20 contained toxic heavy metals above levels considered natural background in Washington soils; the most contaminated zinc fertilizer is also likely to be the least effective; and, many fertilizers contain zinc with low solubility. The water solubility of the zinc in most agricultural and consumer fertilizers is insufficient for the zinc to be available to plants.

"While the use of natural fertilizers is the best first step in growing a safe and environmentally healthy lawn or field for our children, we must be aware of how pesticides and other harmful and non-organic growing agents effect our children," says Dr. Ash.

To reduce pesticide exposure to children, more than 30 states have moved to curb pesticide use at schools. Many of these schools follow a set of guidelines known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which calls for monitoring pest problems, addressing the cause, using non-chemical suppression techniques, and, if other methods fail, using the least-toxic type of pesticide.

"Everyone loves a lush, verdant sports field, but at what price? The fact is that safer alternatives exist," says Dr. Ash. "When you consider the effective and economical organic alternatives on the market, where is the wisdom or the necessity of using synthetic chemical fertilizers, setting up a man-made ecosystem requiring repeated intensive fertilizations and other chemical treatments?”

TAKE ACTION: For information on taking care of your lawn without toxic pesticides or fertilizers or information on how to make your child’s sports fields safer, visit Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscapes page or contact Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450.