Some years ago, my family had a Labrador retriever who, at the relatively young age of 8, died from stomach cancer. We lived at that time next to a golf course, and the Lab and I ran on the course several times a week. When I told that to our veterinarian, he said that our Lab died of cancer resulting from pesticides used on the golf course. Soon thereafter, I was elected to the State Senate, became chairman of the Environment Committee, and was presented with possible legislation that would ban pesticides on the school grounds of children from kindergarten through grade 8. That bill became the law of Connecticut, but is today threatened by serious opposition from both the pesticide industry and from certain groundskeepers who do not want to use the organic alternative to pesticides.
The evidence of pesticide toxicity is overwhelming. In a report earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that "pesticide exposures are common and cause acute and chronic effects. Acute exposures become familiar with the clinical signs and symptoms of acute intoxication from the major types of pesticides." The Department of Preventative Medicine of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine recently wrote to the Connecticut General Assembly stating that "a strong and rapidly expanding body of scientific knowledge links pesticide exposures to a wide range of disease and dysfunction," citing cancer and attacks on the nervous system. A major nursing school recently reported that "the use of pesticides on athletic fields presents many possible health hazards, and results indicate that there is a significant risk of exposure to pesticides for children engaged in sports activities."
Despite the above, there is a strong push in Hartford to eliminate the current pesticide ban and to use instead a system called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM relies on a combination of pesticides and non-pesticides. Dr. Barry Boyd, a clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine, recently wrote to us as follows: "I understand that the chemical pesticide manufacturers would like to amend the law to mandate the use of IPM programs instead of the current ban. I urge you in the strongest terms to reject that notion. IPM programs do not guarantee protection for our children. Only your current law does that and does it well."
Do get involved in this dialogue, and consider choosing the growing variety of organic materials in preference to pesticides, as the towns of Guilford and Branford have done on their school and public grounds. This is a good 21st-century issue!