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Spray Then Play? Durango Parents Say No Way and Cancel Soccer Games

Pesticide Protest Sets an Example for Towns Nationwide

This photo, taken by Tim Faulkner in Rhode Island last year, shows dozens of people ignoring a re-entry period of 48 hours after a pesticide spraying. In Durango, Colorado, some parents are taking action.

 

The western city of Durango, Colorado, has made a lot of headlines in its local newspaper recently by renouncing a petition drive to ban pesticides — then reversing its field and agreeing to work with the pesticide petitioners after all.

It now appears the local residents have been reading the fine print.

Although the town officials voted unanimously to adopt a pesticide policy on town-owned property going forward in 2013, they didn’t cancel contracts for spraying synthetic chemical weed killers this fall. With a main soccer field scheduled to be sprayed Friday, Oct. 12, many parents and coaches have revolted.

Ultimately the entire slate of youth soccer games has been canceled for Oct. 13 as a result. Some parents are keeping their children out of the games even before then as a precaution.

“I am choosing to avoid exposing my child to this potential health risk,” wrote Sheryl McGourty in a letter to town officials that she shared with SafeLawns. “I would rather be cautious or overly conservative in this case. This Saturday my son will not play in his soccer game at Riverview. With that said, I do anticipate the Riverview Athletic Complex will be managed organically next season and we will not have to wonder if we are unintentionally harming our children.”

At issue is the posted re-entry period after the herbicides are sprayed. The local contractor in Durango reportedly is only required to post the Keep off the Grass signs on the fields until the product is dry. In other municipalities across the United States, that requirement can be 24, 48 or even 72 hours depending on the products and the whims of the local lawmakers.

Widespread disagreement exists in the scientific and medical communities about when, or if, fields are safe — especially for young children — after pesticides have been sprayed. In more than 80 percent of Canada, as well as the states of New York and Connecticut, pesticides used to kill weeds are against the law in schoolgrounds and parks where young children play. All pesticides state “Keep Out of the Reach of Children,” yet that’s obviously not happening on youth fields where the products are sprayed.

“Every day of every week we are continuing in this country to expose children to chemicals for which the full toxicity is not understood,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “As a pediatrican, I urge parents to use caution and think carefully about the choices they make with regard to pesticides.”

Doctors warn that pesticides can impact children in numerous ways and through a variety of entry points. Within a few hours or a day or more, for example, pesticide vapor may remain. Additional contact can happen through skin, eyes, ears and noses. Pesticides can, in some cases be ingested when children lick their fingers. Fields are thought to be particularly dangerous for children when rain occurs after a pesticide has dried, thereby re-wetting the product.

Understanding all these risks, many Durango Moms and Dads have set an example for parents nationwide.

 

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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