Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pesticides at School: Maine Earns an "F"

Pesticides sprayed on our food are bad enough, but someone needs to explain to me the rationale behind applying poisonous chemicals to our lawns and green spaces for purely cosmetic purposes. Absolutely incomprehensible is the fact that this spraying also takes place on school grounds.

Sure, school sporting events and recess became a little safer for kids in New York State yesterday, thanks to the implementation of the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. But New York’s statewide law is the exception rather than the norm.

Witness what just happened in Maine. A bill (LD 837) brought before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Joint Standing Committee of the Legislature by Representative Mary P. Nelson (D-Falmouth) would have severely limited the use of pesticides on school grounds:

"This bill requires that the use of pesticides on school grounds is restricted to situations that pose a health threat to a student or staff member and when the presence of animals or insects have been identified as a public health nuisance. It requires the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to adopt rules to provide similar restrictions on the use of pesticides on the grounds of child care facilities and nursery schools."
What would seem a veritable no-brainer was instead amended by a majority of the committee, which offered this summary instead:
"This amendment is the majority report of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. It replaces the bill with a resolve directing the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, Board of Pesticides Control to develop and disseminate best management practices for the establishment and maintenance of school lawns, playgrounds and athletic fields."
So, in lieu of employing a common-sense ban on pesticide use, Maine’s schools will continue to use "best management practices," which pretty much means toxic business as usual for the lawn care companies.

Here's hoping that as word spreads about the needless use of dangerous chemicals on school grounds, the health of our children will cease being a politicized issue.

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