Recess: the highlight of most kids’ school day. Few things capture the heart of the elementary school years as the riotous sounds of schoolchildren running around the playground – the yelps, the laughter, the shouts, the singsong rhymes. And if they’re not living in a concrete jungle, the kids are enjoying themselves on a grassy field, with a swing set area, perhaps a sandbox area, and multiple jungle gyms. Two thumbs way up for play time. Two thumbs way down for many of the pesticides that are used to maintain these fields and their hazardous impact on young bodies.
Schoolyards and playing fields used for soccer, softball and the like, are commonly sprayed with a variety of pesticides to kill off insects, rodents, and weeds, and to keep these fields looking green and full. Unfortunately, long-term exposure to these chemicals is associated with a number of different cancers, including non-Hodgkins lymphoma, brain cancer and leukemia. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control, exposures to pesticides can result in more immediate troubles such as coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and eye irritation.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that schools adopt an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) policy in order to control pests while reducing pesticide exposure and risks. IPM reduce food, water and shelter for pests, effectively decreasing their presence on school grounds. Additionally, implementing an organic lawn maintenance policy eliminates the use of highly toxic pesticides while making an attractive-enough looking field to grow. Not only are both of these approaches to pest management healthier, they are actually more cost efficient than heavy pesticide usage.
Thanks to the efforts of concerned parents, some school districts are required to notify families before pesticides are being applied on school grounds, giving parents the option to keep their children home while the chemicals are still airborne. If yours does not, it should, and you can bring this to the attention of other parents and your school board. Better yet is the implementation of the alternatives above, keeping school grounds fun, safe and healthy for students and staff alike.
To learn more about the School Environment Protection Act of 2009 (SEPA), visit www.beyondpesticides.org.