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Daily News Blog

22
Mar

Pesticide Dangers at Golf Courses Much Higher in the U.S. than Europe, Study Finds

(Beyond Pesticides, March 22, 2023) Pesticide use on golf courses in the United States poses significantly more risk to human health than those in Europe, according to a study published this month in Science of the Total Environment. The findings highlight yet another area of land management where the U.S. is dangerously behind the European Union, as these countries are set to ban pesticides in parks, playgrounds, and playing fields, and have established a 50% reduction goal for agriculture by 2030. Meanwhile U.S. agencies continue to perpetuate widespread toxic pesticide use, with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack even working to counter the EU’s reduction goals through a separate, “market-oriented” initiative alongside pesticide industry-friendly countries like UAE and Brazil.

Researchers found that pesticide risks from golf courses in the U.S. were on average 15 times higher than those in the EU. In order to come to that conclusion, surveys were sent out to courses in eight regions: East Texas, Florida, the Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest in the U.S., and the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Norway in Europe. Recorded answers (including product applied, date, rate, and area of application) were incorporated into the development of a hazard quotient (HQ), a ratio of pesticide exposure to a chemical’s toxicity. High hazard quotients indicate high risks to human health, while lower numbers indicate less risk. Such a model only captures the acute effects of pesticides, and not chronic impacts, but can nonetheless provide important data about pesticide dangers.

The highest single HQ for a golf course was found in Florida at 40,806. While the region with the highest average hazard quotient was U.S. Northwest at 13,696, with the lowest was found in Norway and Denmark at 64. In East Texas and Florida pesticide greens represented the greatest risk, but in all other locations fairways had the highest HQ. Fungicides posed the greatest health risk in Florida, the Midwest, Northeast, and Norway, while herbicides filled this role in East Texas, the Northwest, and Denmark. Insecticides posed the greatest risk for golf courses in the UK.

Although scientists hypothesized that golf courses in more southern regions of the U.S., with their longer growing seasons, would pose a greater risk than those with shorter seasons, this findings did not pan out. Economic factors also played less of a role than researchers expected. Only in Europe and the northern U.S. were any correlations found, with pesticide budget significantly factoring into pesticide risk. However, in all regions, pesticide use intensity was strongly associated with the number of maintenance employees on staff and the pesticide budget per hectare.

Overall scientists zeroed in on one defining factor differentiating pesticide risk on a region’s golf course: the regulatory environment. As the study explains, “Golf courses in regulatory environments where <100 pesticide products were available had a median CWA-HQ [component-weighted-average hazard quotient) of 248, which was significantly lower than mean pesticide risk on golf courses located in regulatory environments which allowed >100 pesticide products, which had a mean CWA-HQ of 7031.”

Indeed while the EU regulates pesticides based on hazards, the inherent toxicity of a chemical pesticide, the U.S. regulates based on risk, looking at the chance a pesticide will have a harmful effect on human health or the environment. “The risk based system used by the EPA has led to a much higher number of pesticides being available for golf courses in the US,” the study notes. In Denmark and Norway, less than 20 pesticide products are permitted to be applied to golf courses.

It is worth emphasizing that this review only focused on acute risks posed by pesticides. Chronic impacts present a greater long term threat to human health, as consistent exposure over years of playing or golf course maintenance adds to one’s exposome, the sum total of toxic exposures over one’s lifetime. While research is few and far between, a factor primarily based on the difficult in getting pesticide use reports from golf courses, the research available indicate elevated risk of various cancers (brain, prostate, non-Hodgkin lymphoma) and nervous system disorders among golf course superintendents.

Beyond Pesticides encourages proactive engagement with golf courses that heavily apply toxic pesticides, particularly in areas around homes, hospitals, playgrounds, and other sensitive sites. The program page Golf, Pesticides, and Organic Practices provides examples of courses that have gone organic or are moving in the right direction. As well as a strategy for advocates to follow to ‘Green Your Local Course.’

For more on the dangers of golf course pesticide use, including a personal, heart-felt story of how these dangers translate to real-world impacts, readers are encouraged to watch Ground War, a documentary created by Andrew Nisker after his healthy and fit dad suddenly developed an environmental-related cancer.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Science of the Total Environment
Image Source: Wikimedia

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One Response to “Pesticide Dangers at Golf Courses Much Higher in the U.S. than Europe, Study Finds”

  1. 1
    Roger Lee Judson Says:

    stop poisoning us or look for other employment!!!!!

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