Pesticides On The Playfield

Have you ever seen those film reels from the 1950s of civic employees spraying DDT all over American neighborhoods? I vividly remember one scene where a massive pesticide cloud was festooned among young kiddies eating at a picnic table. Pretty crazy right?

After watching that I thought, well good thing we’ve become more sensible than this. I assumed we finally realized just how dangerous pesticides can be and how careful we need to be when using them, especially around children. Dr. Fuhrman will tell, early childhood exposure can be disastrous:
Young children are the ones most susceptible to toxic exposures, the National Academy of Science has issued warnings and position papers stating that exposure to pesticides in early life can increase cancer rates down the road as well as increasing the occurrence of mental and immune system disorders.1

We must be careful not to expose our children to chemical cleaners, insecticides, and weed killers on our lawns. Chemicals used in pressure-treated wood used to build lawn furniture, decks, fences, and swings sets have been shown to place children at risk. When children are around, we must be vigilant to maintain a chemical-free environment.
That’s why this post from Julie's Health Club made my jaw drop. A friend of Julie’s was finishing up a bike ride when she noticed a commercial truck spraying pesticides all over the playground of her children’s grade school. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. Read on:
Shocked by the unannounced spraying and that the worker wore no protective clothing, Liz tracked down the name of the chemicals and found that one of them had a half-life of 90 days, meaning children would be exposed to the chemical for at least 90 days.

According to a little-known state law, school districts must notify parents two days before spraying school grounds, including playgrounds or playing fields. Districts are also supposed to keep a list of parents who want to receive individual notification about spraying.

But as Liz found out, most schools don’t.
You don’t have to be a chemist to figure this out, with a 90 day half-life and schools beginning to reconvene, I’m pretty sure kids will be exposed to that stuff. Julie’s friend certainly got her revenge in a twist:
Almost immediately after the spraying, Liz contacted the school and was invited in for a meeting. Armed with a friend, a children’s epidemiologist from the EPA, she persuaded District 57 to change commercial companies, rewrite its outdoor pesticide policy and explore non-chemical deal with infestations.

But Liz didn’t stop there. When she also noticed spraying along the museum campus--in the middle of the day when children were romping in the grass--she contacted the Chicago Park District and hopes it will also work to reduce the use of pesticides on the lakefront.
I guess the lesson parents can take away from this is you can’t trust municipalities to safeguard your kids from pesticides. You’ve got to be your own watchdog. Julie agrees:
Parents, you have of a voice than you think when it comes to making schools safer places. If you’re concerned about whether your child is inhaling pesticides during football practice or recess, call the school and find out the policy, including which chemicals are used (ask for the materials data safety sheet), when the fields were last sprayed and what the chemicals target.
1. Bruckner JV. Differences in sensitivity of children and adults to chemical toxicity: the NAS panel report. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 2000;31(3):280-282. Lefferts LY. Pesticide residues variability and acute dietary assessment: a consumer perspective. Food Addit Contam 2000;17(7):511-517
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