Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

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, and the movement is growing!

Connecticut passed laws to ban pesticides at elementary schools in 2005, middle schools in 2007, and day care facilities in 2009. Since these laws have been implemented, school districts and day care facilities throughout the state have successfully eliminated the use of toxic pesticides, while cost-effectively managing pest problems on school grounds.

High school students are not immune to the dangers of pesticides. While CT's bans on pesticides for K-8 schools and day care facilities were an important first step, they fail to protect teenagers in grades 9-12, who are still susceptible to the dangers of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. In fact, high school students may have a greater level of exposure to pesticides, especially if they are involved in outdoor sports activities. Football, baseball, soccer and other field sports usually require young athletes to attend practice as many as six days per week, exposing students to toxic pesticides for hours each day. Heavy physical activities such as sports and exercise lead to heavy breathing, which can also increase a young person's risk of inhaling toxic pesticides.

Connecticut must expand the pesticide ban to include high school playing fields and public parks! CCE is working to protect Connecticut's children from dangerous pesticides by expanding the pesticide ban to include high school playing fields, public parks, and town greens. Banning pesticides is essential for safeguarding children's health and can be implemented while maintaining effective pest management and quality turf care.

How You Can Help:

Send an email to your representatives in Hartford. Tell them to protect ALL of our children from exposure to dangerous pesticides in our schools by expanding the pesticide ban on playing fields to include high school playing fields, town greens, and public parks.

Email tips:

  • Include your name and address.
  • Remind your legislator that pesticides pose an unacceptable risk to children's health and should be avoided wherever possible.
  • Urge your representative, senator, and Gov. Malloy to ban pesticides on town greens, public parks, and high school playing fields.
  • Ask them to respond in writing, informing you how they will address your concerns.


Please forward a copy of any response you receive to – it helps us track progress on the issue. Thanks!

Updated by lburch 8/11/14