Medical Report Stirs New Momentum Toward Pesticide Legislation
New Jersey Poised to Pass Nation’s Third Statewide Ban on Schoolground Spraying
This year, according to many key indicators, could finally be different.
When the state of New York joined Connecticut in banning the applications of pesticides around schools and daycare centers statewide two years ago, SafeLawns and the anti-pesticide movement pushed for an avalanche of similar legislation. Stalled by the Republican waves that swept so-called pro-business factions into power in the 2010 elections nationwide, progressive efforts to protect children from pesticides from New Jersey to Maine and New Hampshire and beyond all failed.
Buoyed by the unprecedented November report from the American Academy of Pediatrics — a professional membership organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians — anti-pesticide advocates finally see something wider than a proverbial crack in the door opening.
“Playgrounds and school yards should be safe places for our children to play and enjoy their childhood, but instead of providing a protected space, we are spraying these lawns with toxins that can have lasting effects on our children’s health and wellbeing,” said state Senator Shirley Turner of New Jersey, whose bill, the “Safe Playing Fields Act” S-1143, passed unanimously through an environmental subcommittee in December and may be voted on as soon as this month. That she had 50 co-sponsors was promising, yet no guarantee.
A similar bill was killed in New Jersey two years ago when lobbyists for the synthetic pesticide industry were successful in stalling, if not swaying legislative opinion. This time, though, the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing 1,600 members, signed off on a letter supporting the bill.
For the legislators it presents a clear-cut choice of whom to believe . . . lobbyists who say the chemical products are safe when used as directed, or the doctors who are finally willing to state otherwise. In their December letter the doctors wrote: “The past decade has seen an expansion of the evidence showing adverse effects after chronic pesticide exposure in children. The strongest links between pesticides and health effects to children involve pediatric cancer and adverse neuro-development. However, low birth weight, preterm birth, congenital abnormalities, cognitive deficits and asthma at times are pesticide-induced.”
In Maine, meanwhile, five communities have banned synthetic lawn and garden pesticides on public property. Statewide, organizers may be willing to take another look at the legislation that was watered down within weeks of Republican governor Paul LePage taking office — on a platform of taking all strings off environmental protection. The result was 2011′s limp law titled “A Resolve to Enhance the Use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on School Grounds.”
The state’s own web site acknowledges that the issue of pesticides on school grounds isn’t going away.
“Because the Legislature did not simply abandon this proposal altogether, it shows that pesticide use on school properties is likely to remain an important issue,” said the state. “School pesticide bans have recently been imposed in other states in our region and there is considerable and passionate interest in Maine for protecting children from the perceived risks of pesticide exposure.”
SafeLawns and other organizations plan to step up efforts in the days and weeks ahead to spread that sentiment nationwide. Let your state legislators know what’s going on in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey and send them a link to the American Academy of Pediatrics study. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can help.