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47 Schoolchildren Poisoned in Ohio Offers Evidence That Kids Are Silently Poisoned Every Day

Students from an Ohio middle school were evacuated earlier this month when chemical weed killers were applied to nearby fields. Ironically, the children were evacuated to a site near the sprayed fields that made at least 47 children ill. (GANNETT PHOTO)

Students from an Ohio middle school were evacuated earlier this month when chemical weed killers were applied to nearby fields. Ironically, the children were evacuated to a site near the sprayed fields that made at least 47 children ill (GANNETT PHOTO).

When I arrived home today after another whirlwind week on the road, the in-box was abuzz with news of a a tragic event in Ohio that poisoned 47 young schoolchildren. Six were hospitalized and lawyers for a slew of parents are circling the wagons in the midst of the incident that occurred back on Oct. 11.

I’m not quite sure how it slipped under our radar until now, but anytime children wind up sick after an application of a chemical designed to kill dandelions, an enduring question must be asked: “How the hell can we keep allowing these products anywhere near our kids?”

The story in Ohio, chronicled in local papers (http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/chemical-spray-spurs-middle-school-evacuation-students-taken-to-hospital-1267163.html), was apparently brought on by a set of atmospheric and wind conditions that caused the weed-killer known as Momentum (containing 2,4-D and two other toxic ingredients) to drift directly into the school while windows were open. By the time the first student alerted an adult to the smell, 46 others were already sick with nausea, blurred vision, headaches and dizziness — which is exactly what the material safety data sheet (MSDS) says can happen.

The reality is that this sort of affliction happens EVERY SINGLE DAY, SEVERAL THOUSANDS TIMES A DAY somewhere in the United States — but because it doesn’t happen to a group of children all at once, it doesn’t make the news. Say, for instance, that your neighbor is applying weed killers to his or her lawn and your child breathes it in. He or she gets a tummy ache, or a headache, and you, as a parent, have no idea why your child is sick. It’s probably your neighbor’s lawn chemicals.

There was no indication that the pesticide company did anything illegal in this case, or applied too much material. Maybe the company should have told the school to close the windows; maybe the company could have applied the material when the 820 students weren’t in school and these 47 kids wouldn’t have gotten sick.

But the main point here is that day to day to day across the U.S. these products are applied by professionals and homeowners; kids breath them in and kids get sick. In this Ohio incident 6 percent of the 820 students were made ill; isn’t that 6 percent too many?

Some scientific reports estimate that 1 in 6 children get sick from even incidental exposure to pesticides. It’s just not reasonable to shut every window and keep every child in the neighborhood inside when lawns are being treated; the only reasonable thing to do is to ban the products like they’ve done in Canada.

I can’t say I’m happy this event happened; if my student were in that school, I’d be justifiably irate just as I’m sure many of the parents were.

But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that this event NEEDS TO BE USED AS EVIDENCE that lawn chemicals to kill weeds and insects have no place on our parks and playgrounds, our playing fields and even our own back yards. More than 80 percent of the nation in Canada has already made this decision — chemicals used for cosmetic purposes of killing weeds are illegal — and it’s time for the United States to follow suit.

We need to take the Child Safe Playing Fields Act in New York and, at a minimum, make it national legislation. Call your state and nationally elected officials and tell them you don’t want lawn chemicals anywhere near your children. Send them a link to this story; 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.

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