Bill Before New York Lawmakers would Ban Use of Pesticides on School Playing Fields
Syracuse, NY -- Children race out of their classrooms onto green, fluffy grass playing fields. They tumble and slide, roll around and laugh. Their pants turn green from grass stains. They rub their eyes and faces. They drop water bottles and snacks onto the lawn.
The lush grass helps to protect their knees from scrapes and guards them against serious injury. But the grass also could make them sick, according to environmental advocates and numerous scientific studies.
Many schools in the state use pesticides on their athletic fields to kill bugs, pests and weeds. A number of scientific studies have shown that exposure to pesticides can increase children's risk for cancer, exacerbate asthma and trigger seizures.
Environmental advocates are lobbying state lawmakers to ban pesticides, herbicides and fungicides on playgrounds and athletic fields in public and private schools and at day care centers. The Legislature is expected to debate the bill today as part of a package of Earth Day legislation. It's not clear if it will pass. It has died in the state Senate nine times before.
Chemical companies are pressing lawmakers to vote against the bill. They say pesticides are highly regulated and safe to use.
Children are especially susceptible to pesticides because of their small size and still-developing organs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Rather than a purely chemical approach, the agency recommends schools use Integrated Pest Management, which combines several more organic and less toxic techniques to manage pests and weeds, such as overseeding, mowing grass taller, watering less and applying "compost tea," a liquefied form of compost.
"Put simply, IPM is a safer, and usually less costly option for effective pest management in a school community," EPA regulators said.
A 2000 study by the state attorney general's office, the most recent available, found that 87 percent of schools in New York use pesticides, with almost 65 percent using pesticides outdoors.
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