There's good news for school children in New York. The Child Safe Playing Fields Act, which took effect May 17, prohibits use of pesticides on playgrounds, athletic fields and all grassy areas in K-12 schools across the state.
This law represents major progress toward preventing children’s exposure to pesticides and the resulting health harms. Science clearly shows that during critical developmental windows, exposure to pesticides can cause long-term and irreversible damage for children’s health and cognitive development.
Schools in New York will transition to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices that do not use synthetic pesticides and rely on commonsense approaches to managing pests.
IPM has been successfully used in many schools districts across the country. The neighboring state of Connecticut also recently banned the use of synthetic pesticides in its playgrounds and sports fields for K-8 grades.
Several school districts in California have successfully used IPM, as documented in the Green Schools Are Within Reach report covered recently here. Examples include the Los Angeles Unified School District, successfully practicing IPM in its 1,000+ schools since 1999; and the Palo Alto School District, which has not used any synthetic pesticides on its playing fields since 2001.
A law is currently being considered in California to further strengthen IPM efforts throughout the state.
The New York and Connecticut laws do not restrict use of pesticides in health emergencies (as determined by county health departments or school boards) or to protect children from an imminent threat of biting, stinging and venomous pests. Yet the pesticide industry group Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment is aggressively challenging the state laws, saying the rules threaten public health by limiting the use of "essential tools" for preventing tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, allergies to bee stings, and other insect threats.
"We're not asking anyone to stop controlling ticks," says Paul Tukey, the founder of the environmental health group Safe Lawns which supports the New York and Connecticut laws. "We're trying to get people to stop using pesticides to kill dandelions."