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Child-Safe Playing Fields

Image of a girl studying.

Children at risk

Pesticides are often used both indoors and outdoors at our schools, to kill insects, weeds, and fungus. Children are more sensitive to toxic exposure due their developing and smaller bodies. Children are therefore at an elevated risk to the dangers associated with pesticide exposure.

Pesticides and our children’s health

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Academy of Sciences, and American Public Health Association, among others, recognize the danger that pesticide exposure pose to our children’s health. The growing body of peer reviewed scientific evidence indicates that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child's neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels. Long-term exposure to pesticides has also been linked to cancer, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Health problems associated with short-term pesticide exposure include acute impacts, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, seizures and respiratory problems. Researchers have found that pesticide exposure can induce a poisoning effect linked to asthma. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness in the nation, accounting for 14 million lost days of school annually. Despite this evidence, these toxic chemicals remain in widespread use in and around many schools, public parks, and playing fields.

Of the 48 most commonly used pesticides in schools:

  • 81% are irritants
  • 69% are neurotoxins
  • 53% are linked to reproductive effects
  • 50% are linked to cancer
  • 69% are linked to kidney and liver damage

Full report

Safer alternatives exist

Fortunately, school districts and municipalities can eliminate their use of hazardous pesticides while successfully and cost-effectively managing pest problems on school grounds, public parks, and playing fields. Numerous municipalities, school districts, individual schools, and some states have chosen to adopt school pesticide policies that prohibit the use of toxic lawn-care pesticides in favor of readily available and affordable non-toxic alternatives. Time and time again, schools that have eliminated toxic pesticide use have reported effective pest management and significant long-term financial savings.

Children spend a significant amount of time on school property, and public playing fields. Banning harmful pesticides where our children learn and play significantly reduces their exposure to toxic chemicals. This is an important children's health measure to protect developing bodies from the toxic effects of chemical pesticide exposure.

Victory in New York!

On May 18, 2010, NY Governor Paterson signed the Child Safe Playing Fields Act, a comprehensive law that banned the use of aesthetic pesticides on K-12 school and day care green spaces and playgrounds. This legislation went into effect in May of 2011 and has since been implemented successfully.

Victory in Connecticut!

Connecticut passed laws to ban pesticides at elementary schools in 2005, middle schools in 2007, and day care facilities in 2009. In 2015, the legislature passed a law that expanded the pesticide ban to school and public playgrounds in Connecticut, to further protect children from undue exposure to toxic lawncare pesticides. Since these laws have been implemented, school districts, municipal parks and day care facilities throughout the state have successfully eliminated the use of toxic pesticides, while cost-effectively managing pest problems.

Updated by lburch 7/28/18