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Source: The Warwick Advertiser

New law prohibits pesticides on school playing fields

Posted: May 31, 2010
Originally Published: May 27, 2010

Albany — Gov. David Paterson signed the Child Safe Playing Field Act into law on May 18, marking a victory for environmental and human health groups.

The law bans the use of pesticides on school playing fields and playgrounds. Schools will have one year to comply with the regulations.

In New York and across the country, schools routinely apply pesticides and “weed and feed” products (pesticides mixed with chemical fertilizers), which are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, learning disabilities, asthma and other problems. Strong opposition from the pesticide industry had led to a previous version of the bill being defeated nine times.

While the earlier versions of the legislation included all outdoor school grounds, the scope was narrowed to include only playgrounds and playing fields to help ensure passage. In addition, over 8,000 letters were sent to legislators in favor of the bill, and over 18,000 people signed a petition, according to Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

The Child Safe Playing Field Act requires that all schools, preschools, and day care centers both public and private to stop using pesticides on any playgrounds or playing fields. The law does allow for emergency application of pesticides for infestations if the County Health Department, the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation or the school board deems it an emergency. Containerized nonvolatile bait stations are also permitted for insect and rodent control.

Opponents of the bill argued that current pesticide regulations offer adequate protection to humans and the environment, but many studies have shown that human health is increasingly at risk from pesticide exposure. Children are particularly in need of protection from pesticides, because their organ systems are still developing. They also have a faster rate of metabolism than adults meaning that with respect to body weight they take in more pesticides from food they eat and the air they breathe. Most recently, a new report has linked everyday pesticide usage to ADHD in children.

Across the country, state and local governments are instituting new policies for stricter pesticide regulations. In Massachusetts, carcinogenic pesticides or products that contain EPA List 1, Inerts of Toxicological Concern, can no longer be applied to school grounds, and no pesticides can be applied for purely aesthetic reasons. In Connecticut, pesticides cannot be used on day care center turf, or on school grounds for kindergarten through 8th grade.