Pesticide Industry’s Propaganda Machine Continues to Target Children
As we reported here in March, the lawn pesticide industry’s leading lobby firm from Washington, D.C., has launched a propaganda campaign aimed directly at children. During 2010 a van stacked full of pro-pesticide paraphernalia made its way up the Eastern Seaboard, stopping at schools and other places children routinely congregate. The stated goal is to “debug the myth” that pesticides are dangerous.
The tactics are now routine: donate some plants, time and labor to the children’s facility in question and pass out “educational” materials that scare the bejeezus out of children and their caregivers so that they’ll want to run home and kill every insect and weed in sight.
The recent news that the bogus campaign — managed by The Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment — had come to a boys club in Manchester had our friends in the pro-organic lawn movement up in arms. This statement in particular, linked from the web site of Lawn Dawg, New Hampshire’s largest purveyor of toxic lawn products, is really most laughable: “Proper management of the grounds in outdoor gathering places — like community parks, playgrounds and sporting fields — is important to reduce tripping hazards and other ailments or injuries that can occur due to invasive weeds or poorly kept grass.” Here is a link to the complete statement from the chemical industry: http://blog.debugthemyth.com/?p=414. In other words, they’re saying that if a dandelion grows on the football field, the football player might trip over it and hurt himself. So we better spray the field with weed killers to protect the kids.
Some of us just want to scream when we see this stuff. Others, like Dr. Meg Sears, are more rational in their approach.
“In pesticide consultations (in Canada) several years ago we heard repeatedly that herbicides were essential to maintain safe playing fields; I never saw a scientific study to substantiate this claim,” she said. “I am associated with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), so I asked the head of the Emergency Department about injuries related to weeds on playing fields. He had not heard of such a problem, so he checked with staff, who also had not heard of such a problem. He reported that injuries such as sprains generally arose from collisions between players. In terms of long term health effects, they were most concerned that children should not be ‘heading’ the ball in soccer. CHEO also supports eliminating unnecessary (i.e. with no health benefit) pesticide use, to reduce potential long term health effects of pesticides.
“I also searched the peer-reviewed medical literature for evidence about weeds and injuries. At the time the only information I found was that rocks and mud were the features of the ground linked to football injuries. The species of greenery did not affect field safety, but a lack of vegetation might. Claims regarding the need to kill non-grass species seemed strange to us soccer-moms. On overused fields here, knotweed was a predominant groundcover around (soccer) goals. The knotweed would reduce any problem with mud, so in that context killing it with a herbicide would make a playing field less safe.”
It’s hard to blame the facility managers, who are justifiably happy to get the free plants donated by the chemical industry. None of them seem to have any idea that they are inadvertently supporting a pro-pesticide campaign and, indirectly at least, harming children. As with everything in life, though, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. We all need to send warnings to our schools, our boys and girls clubs, our churches etc. and warn them to ask one simple question when someone from the landscape industry is offering something for free: “Who’s really paying for it?”
I have hundreds of friends in the landscape industry who donate time and labor to this sort of project, simply because it’s a GREAT community effort. That should never, ever stop. When you slap the “Debug the Myth” label on the front of it, though, the real sinister motivation becomes clear: These people want you to keep applying poisons, to your schools, your homes — anywhere a bug and your child may crawl. If the cigarette industry showed up and passed out a bunch of free stuff at a boys club, most people would probably catch the whiff of second-hand propaganda fairly quickly and send them away. We need to stand just as strong against pesticides.