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New Jersey Senate Panel Working to Ban Pesticide Use on School Grounds

Members of a New Jersey Senate environmental panel unanimously cleared a bill on Monday that would make New Jersey a national leader in limiting children’s pesticide exposure. The measure, titled “The Child Safe Playing Field Act,” would prohibit the use of most lawn pesticides on public and private school playgrounds, recreational fields and day care centers. Low-impact organic pesticide applications would be allowed, along with an exception that allows stronger pesticides during emergencies, such as insect infestations.

“This is a bill that would indeed protect our children, particularly in their most vulnerable stages of life,” said Sen. Shirley Turner, the prime sponsor.

The proposal would be the most extensive in the nation. Similar laws have been passed in New York and Connecticut covering K-12 and K-8 schools. The New Jersey bill expands a 2002 law requiring schools to develop Integrated Pest Management plans that combine pest control, building maintenance and sanitation practices. That law encourages the use of low-impact pesticides and requires notification before applications.

Opposition from the chemical industry came from Nancy Sadlon, executive director of the Green Industry Council, who said the bill was drafted without consultation from her trade group, which includes representatives from Lawn Doctor, TruGreen, the New Jersey Pest Management Association and others. Sadlon testified that untreated playing fields would become weed-choked, hard-packed and bug-infested in time. Turner, however, said she had a letter from a public works administrator in Basking Ridge, Somerset County, saying that the playing fields were in fine shape two years after pesticides were banned.

“Children are our most vulnerable population as far as pesticides go,” said Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club, who testified in support of the bill. “Our first goal should be ‘do no harm,’ and this bill does that.”

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