Studies Find That Schools And Parks Overuse Pesticides

Attorney General Spitzer today released two reports that document the widespread and questionable use of pesticides in public places, including schools, parks and athletic fields. The reports identify a clear need for improved pest management practices by local officials. "A walk in the park is supposed to be a healthful activity," Spitzer said. "It is not when it involves exposure to toxic pesticides." "Too many local officials are unaware of basic precautions the should be taken when applying lawn chemicals. The result is unnecessary exposure, especially on playing fields where children are engaged in sports such as baseball, softball and soccer." The first report, entitled Pesticide Use at New York Schools: Reducing the Risk, found that, of the schools that responded to the survey:

  • 87% use pesticides;
  • 76% apply pesticides indoors;
  • 63% apply pesticides outdoors;
  • 21% maintain written pesticide policies;
  • 33% regularly provide prior notification of indoor pesticide applications; and
  • 26% post notices in or around treated areas.

The report includes information to help schools develop wiser pesticide use policies. "With a growing number of school children suffering from asthma and other debilitating health conditions, it is essential that parents are provided with advance written notice before pesticides are used in their children's schools," Spitzer said. "The State Legislature should not adjourn without passing a strong Neighbor Notification bill which includes a school parental notification provision," he added. Spitzer said he also supports legislation that would require schools to adopt Integrated Pest Management Programs, as required by Assembly bill A 8206, which has passed the State Assembly and is pending in the State Senate.

The second report released by the Attorney General, Pesticide Use by County Governments: Reducing the Risk, found that counties often applied pesticides routinely, rather than in response to a recognized pest problem. As a result, they apply far more pesticides than is necessary. The most heavily used pesticides by county governments are organophosphates, including chlorpyrifos, which the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced last week will soon be banned for many non-agricultural uses.

A number of counties have made significant progress in reducing their use of pesticides, including Nassau and Onondaga Counties. The most significant steps were taken by Albany County and Suffolk County when their county legislatures adopted local "Pesticide Sunset" ordinances. These ordinances require a phase-out of pesticides used on county property, beginning with the most toxic pesticides.

Attorney General Spitzer supports adoption of local sunset ordinances as an effective strategy to reduce the use of pesticides and their accompanying health and environmental impacts. The report details the results of these and other counties that have reduced pesticide use, and provides model ordinances and other information to assist county governments protect their citizens.

Both reports are available on the Attorney General web site (www.ag.ny.gov) or by writing to the Attorney General's Office at State Capitol, Albany, New York 12224.

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