Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pesticides and Kids Don’t Mix

Last Wednesday in Middletown a playing field was treated with toxic lawn pesticides, and hours later kids were playing a baseball game on it. Signs were posted properly to warn of the dangers of these chemicals.   

A mom questioned the signs and pulled her daughter from the game and told the coaches. The signs specifically said NO Children, NO pets within 24 hours of the application. Yet, the coaches continued with the game and most kids and families stayed on the field.

Lawn chemicals should not be applied where children, pets and the public play. Why is Middletown still doing this? The dangers of lawn chemicals are well known and documented and proven. CT has a law banning lawn care pesticides at schools, kindergarten through grade 8. The children playing on these fields were ages 9-11. But honestly, it doesn’t matter how old you are. These pesticides are more harmful to young growing bodies, but also can be dangerous to older children, adults and pets. 

Concerned residents have been trying to get the City to adopt an organic program for its public properties, including playing fields, for years. The City may say it has been using organic methods on some fields, but simply doing nothing or putting organic fertilizer on a field does not constitute a legitimate program. An organic program includes testing the soil and developing a plan specific to that property to help the soil get healthier. By building the biology of the soil, the field will grow.  

We have a viable alternative to using harmful pesticides while still having great fields. Organic methods have a proven track record. However, it does require thinking out of the box, re-training staff, moving away from traditional methods and learning new things. Branford and Cheshire have been managing their properties organically for years. It is a source of pride for the community. 

Middletown should learn from this experience and take a strong step forward to protect its youngest citizens and visitors. 

Ecoin (Environmental Collective Impact Network)
Project Green Lawn
The Jonah Center


John Milardo said...

The Parks & Recreation Department did have an organic fertilizing program in place when I retired a few years ago. It was implemented under then Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano. After presenting our case regarding money and manpower to perform an organic versus chemical program, Mayor Giuliano directed us to go organic; which we did.

There were residents who were involved in recommending the City go organic, as did Public Works Department Recycling Coordinator Kim O’Rourke, who ended up heading the program for the City. Kim was in charge of the instructional classes and conferences we attended and participated in for training.

The first step for the Parks department was to hire a consultant who specialized in organic turf field maintenance and construction, which was done. Soil testing on all athletic fields was performed throughout the City. All organic products recommended by the consultant were purchased and applied to all sites. We had some good results and some not so good results, but we knew changing over to an organic program was going to take several years to achieve proper results.

Unfortunately, the City did not award the department the money to properly continue the organic program. So, some fields were treated organically, others not treated at all. If the City does want to go completely organic, they will need to give the Parks department enough money to get the job done. If they do not receive proper funding , chemical treatment to fields is cheaper and provides much quicker aesthetic results than an organic program does. I am not recommending one program over the other.

Jon said...

Yes. Thank you. Last summer I was very disappointed to see pesticide application signs on the grounds at Crystal Lake Park, a place I like to take my kids to play, swim, fish & experience nature. Now these activities feel tainted by the city's use of pesticides.

Tree Fanatic said...

So, the State of CT prohibits the use of pesticides (both herbicides and insecticides) on elementary and middle school ground playing fields. Why would it be appropriate to use pesticides on those playing fields that don't fall under the Board of Education's purview? And, for heaven's sake, why would any adult let (encourage to?) kids play on the fields when the chemicals have just been applied and signage indicates no humans or pets should use those fields for a 24-hour interval? One of the products used carries the signal word "Danger", while another read "Caution" -- which should remind us that children were endangered, and no one except one parent used appropriate caution.