What is going on here? Why is a law to protect children from harmful pesticides at school under attack? On Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 the chemical industry is supporting a new bill in the CT legislature that will undo all of the progress made in CT since 2005 when a law was passed to protect our children from exposure to toxic chemicals in school and daycare.
The Connecticut legislature passed a law (P.A. 09-56) banning lawn care pesticide applications on the grounds of day care centers, elementary and middle schools (grade 8 and lower) as a result of residents’ concerns about children’s health and the environment. This ban went into effect for day care centers on Oct. 1, 2009 and for K-8 schools on July 1, 2010.
On Feb. 22, CT may rollback this law if a new bill, Bill 5155, is successful. “The new bill is designed to undo the Connecticut state statute that bans the use of pesticides on school grounds grades K-8,” said Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc., a Yale-based organization that has conducted and published studies concerning pesticide toxicity. “The state of Connecticut worked for years to protect our smallest school children from many different toxins, including pesticides. Pesticides are one of those toxins that have been well documented as having the ability to cause harm to health — especially for small children. Pesticides are designed to kill living things — whether those things are unwanted plants or unwanted insects.
Children are also living things — and that is why the state has said in the past that it will protect our smallest children from pesticide exposures while they are in our schools.”
I first heard about this on the Safelawns.org blog just days ago and was furious and sad.
What Bill 5155 states is that municipalities can practice "IPM" or Integrated Pest Management. IPM allows for synthetic chemical pesticides to be applied at the "discretion of the licensed operator." Unfortunately, what this means to me as a mom who understands both organic land care and IPM, this is a disguise for "go ahead and use the pesticides again."
I am a huge proponent of organic lawn and land care. I have seen firsthand on my own two acres of land and as retail manager of Natureworks in Northford how possible it is to have a pretty green lawn and garden after being treated with chemicals for years. I was so proud to be living here in CT where my lawmakers had such a vision to protect our children from the toxic chemicals so many people and municipalities apply over and over to their land. These easy to apply, quick fix, toxic products are available everywhere and the commercials and applicators stress how they are "perfectly safe!"
In my town of Durham, the high school lawn around the school was sprayed last August with a "weed and feed" product by TruGreen. (I wrote about that in a past blog-click here to read). The TruGreen applicator had basically told the grounds supervisor at the school district the lawn really needed it and the approval was given. An hour later the school had the sickening familiar chemical smell and the yellow signs saying to "keep off for 24 hours."
I knocked on the door and talked with this groundskeeper about many ways to care for the lawns organically. Every suggestion I made was responded to with "we have tried everything, nothing works." To me, this man has has the wool pulled over his eyes by the chemical industry and at the time was not open to learning a new way of caring for the soil for his school children.
Well, I have learned tonight after doing some searching, many many towns in CT have organically managed sports fields and they are SAFE to play on. They do not practice IPM, they practice safe, organic land care. There is a page on the ct.gov Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's website that is titled "Transitioning to Organic Land Care In Your Town." There is even a seven-minute video highlighting the Town of Cheshire and showcasing their baseball fields-one of which I recognized that my son played on last season! Cheshire, Branford, Glastonbury, Granby, Mansfield are towns that have taken an organic approach to caring for town and school property for the safety of the people and the environment as a whole.
I see what happened here in Durham as a problem to do with educating the grounds crews of the basics and science of organic land care. It is a learning curve and every lawn problem has an organic solution. Once you learn the fundamentals of organic land care, the care of the property goes down as the soil is able to sustain the grass plant without continually adding more toxic product.
Please, join me and voice your concerns over any changes in our law that protects our children. If you are a supporter of the original school pesticide ban, make your voice heard by emailing your testimony and/or letter of support to Allison Blancato, clerk of the Planning and Development Committee at Allison.Blancato@cga.ct.gov or by attending a hearing in Hartford at the state house this coming Wednesday, Feb. 22, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
We should not be going backwards in protecting our children-we should move forward and soon amend the law to protect through grade 12! New York State has done so of last year! They followed our lead here in CT! Send your email today to Allison.Blancato@cga.ct.gov.