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Connecticut School Pesticide Ban in No Danger of Being Rescinded

This soccer field in Connecticut is maintained using organic techniques.

This soccer field in Connecticut is maintained using organic techniques.

When the state of Connecticut made U.S. history in 2005 by becoming the first state to ban the applications of synthetic weed killers around schools and daycare centers in grades K-8, those of us in the environmental and health community cheered loudly. I’ve probably given 600 public talks on the subject of lawn pesticides since then and have challenged all audiences in at least 40 other states to follow Connecticut’s lead in protecting children from these toxic substances.

Ironically, just a week since the New York state senate passed a bill banning the applications of synthetic pesticides on school playgrounds and playing fields, some observers in Connecticut fear that its own ban is about to be struck down by the state’s lawmakers.

“The pesticide ban on school grounds for schools grades K-8 — that so many people worked so hard to achieve — that ban looks like it is about to be rolled back. How could that happen?” wrote activist Nancy Alderman in a letter to her constituents on Monday.

Rep. Dick Roy recently introduced a bill calling for Integrated Pest Management techniques around all municipal facilities in the state. Alderman and others fear that this IPM approach — which allows for use of pesticides as a last resort — will ultimately lead to the same excessive use of pesticides around schools that we’ve seen in the past.

Not so, however, according to Roy, as well as Rep. Mary Fritz, a strong supporter of the Roy bill.

“The outright ban for grades K-8 will remain in effect,” said Fritz in a phone conversation Tuesday morning. “The IPM provision of the bill is for other ages and, primarily, for the playing fields.”

Fritz said the state’s parks and recreation departments are demanding the use of pesticides for the worst cases.

“If they can’t use chemical grub control, for example, you’re going to see games being canceled due to unplayable field conditions,” she said. “Sometimes these products are necessary and this bill allows for that, while keeping the original ban in place for the younger children.”

Language within bill 5418, section G, does specifically state: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the application of a pesticide at a day care center, any public or private preschool or public or private school with students in grade eight or lower in violation of the provisions of section 19a-79a or 10-231b.” That does little, however, to put Alderman and others at ease.

“History has shown us that an IPM approach leads to chemical applications everywhere,” said Alderman. “We all know that you can create safe playing conditions using organic techniques, but the (chemical pesticide) industry has been EVERYWHERE lately in Connecticut to lobby on behalf of their products. They don’t want anyone to think that you can have a good playing field without their poisons.”

On one hand, Alderman is correct in her assertions. Playing fields can be maintained with natural techniques and organic products. On the other hand, a state-wide IPM program on all municipally owned property could, in some cases, be a step ahead.

“The goal is definitely to reduce pesticides across the state,” said Roy in a conversation Wednesday morning. “I see the bill as a win-win because municipalities will save money on their pesticide bills and the public will have far more protection from pesticides. The fact that this bill looks like it’s going to pass really has the pesticide industry angry — and yet the environmentalists don’t think it goes far enough. They don’t want any pesticides anywhere.

“The bottom line is that someone needs to stand up and say, ‘No more,’ to the pesticide companies and this bill is an attempt to do just that.”

To let Rep. Roy know how you feel, his legislative office number is: 203.878.8030. If you’d like to share your opinions with Mary Fritz, call: 203.269.1169. The current legislative session in Connecticut ends next week, so act now to make your voice heard.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Diane

    Unbelievable. I will be making my phone calls in the morning. I was so proud of the CT bill. I felt it gave me the power to talk to my friends and neighbors about organic lawn care. What could they possibly be thinking? What is so hard about not using chemicals on playing fields?? Organic turf is beautiful and it just feels so safe to me to sit and play on it with my kids. What will it take for people to start getting this???

  • Doug

    It seems like changing the public mindset that these chemicals are part of our ‘environment’only because they are marketed so heavily and slyly is not as easy as it seems. We’ve got a good fight on our hands.

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