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Schwarzenegger Urged to Sign School Pesticide Bill

This came to us today from the Pesticide Watch allies in California:

By Theresa Harrington
Contra Costa Times

CONCORD — Local officials, parents and environmentalists are urging the governor to sign a bill that would help protect children from being exposed to dangerous pesticides on school campuses.

“Pesticides can trigger asthma,” said Susan JunFish, a Moraga parent and leader of Parents for a Safer Environment, which is lobbying for passage of Senate Bill 1157.

The bill, authored by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, would require schools to adopt pest management programs focusing on the least-hazardous practices to rid campuses of insects and other pests by Jan. 1, 2014. DeSaulnier gathered with supporters of the measure Tuesday at the Cambridge Child Development Center, which occasionally hires a company that sprays to eliminate roaches when children are not present.

“I’d like to find a less toxic way, if there is one,” said Kathy Lafferty, executive director of the center. “We don’t spray inside the buildings ever.”

In a 2009 survey of public school districts, the Department of Pesticide Regulation found that 42 percent of those responding were broadcast spraying pesticides — placing the chemical in a pressurized spray canister and dispersing them in the air. The method is one of the highest risk practices for exposing children and staff to carcinogens, neurotoxins, reproductive and acute toxins, said Linda Mayo, a Mt. Diablo school trustee and vice president of the California Parent Teacher Association.

The parent organization endorses the measure as a way to encourage schools to develop policies that will lead to safer practices, she said.

Dr. Rachelle Halpern, an internist and endocrinologist, said the medical community is becoming alarmed by premature puberty in girls, obesity, thyroid disorders and cancers that are suspected to be related to exposure to small amounts of toxins found in pesticides over many months or years.

“It doesn’t produce acute illnesses,” she said, “and yet the long-term effects can be devastating.”

A UC Riverside study earlier this year found that five large pest control companies that switched to less toxic practices maintained the same level of customer support, while increasing the safety of the sites they treated and lowering their costs by 25 percent, said Maya Abood, of Pesticide Watch. It can take up to five years to completely transition athletic fields to organic methods of pest control, by creating a healthy soil biology, she said.

New York prohibits the spraying of pesticides on all public playgrounds and some California counties, cities and school districts have also begun to curb the use of harmful pesticides, she said. But many are simply unaware of the more eco-friendly options.

The Los Angeles school district adopted a pest management program after one mother saw her child sprayed with pesticide, JunFish said.

“Must we wait for accidents to occur before we take action?” she said.

ONLINE
More information about Senate Bill 1157 is available at http://dist07.casen.govoffice.com/. Click on 2010 legislation.

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.

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