WASHINGTON – More than 4,000 elementary schools across the U.S. are located within spitting distance of farm fields where toxic pesticides are likely sprayed, a new Environmental Working Group analysis shows.
EWG released the report during a virtual press conference with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a stalwart champion of protecting children from the risks pesticides pose, including cancer and neurological damage, among other harms.
Others in Congress are pushing a misguided plan that would block states and local authorities from adopting legal limits on pesticide spraying near schools.
The thousands of elementary schools are located within 200 feet of farmland where crops are likely sprayed with toxic pesticides, EWG analysts found. Many more schools are situated within a quarter-mile of industrial farm operations where pesticide drift can fan out from fields for miles, putting those students at risk.
“The fact there are more than 4,000 elementary schools bumping up right against farm fields where toxic pesticides are almost certainly being sprayed is shocking,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber.
“Parents and caregivers have enough to worry about. The last thing they need to concern themselves with is whether their children are being exposed to toxic pesticides at school,” he added.
More than 30 states – including Georgia, Kentucky and Texas – have adopted pesticide safety laws to restrict toxic crop chemicals from being sprayed near schools. In several states, farms cannot spray any pesticides while kids are at school.
California and Texas, for example, require school officials to use low-risk pesticides. Alabama and North Carolina ban crop dusting near schools. Many other states – including Arizona, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan and New Hampshire – have also placed buffer zones for pesticide spraying around schools.
Illinois and other states require that notices be posted on school grounds to alert students before or after spraying. Some states, including Minnesota and Nevada, require that parents be notified. Others, like Louisiana and Pennsylvania, obligate schools to track students who are sensitive to pesticides, while still others, like Georgia and New Mexico, limit the times when pesticides can be sprayed near schools.
Laws designed to protect our kids from toxic pesticides don’t stop at the school fence. Many states, such as Iowa and Kansas, have adopted laws that restrict pesticides from being sprayed in public parks used by children.
Many cities and counties have also issued ordinances restricting pesticide use at places like parks and playgrounds because of concern about how the chemicals can harm children.
Some pesticides have been linked to serious health harms, including cancer, neurotoxicity and harm to development and reproduction. Children are especially susceptible to potential health problems.
But the vital state and local safety measures protecting children around the country from pesticides’ harms risk being eliminated. Some members of Congress are pushing proposals that could block them, potentially jeopardizing the health and safety of kids nationwide.
“Some members of Congress are now proposing to preempt all of these laws, stripping states and localities from being able to do what’s necessary to protect their children,” said Booker.
Referring to EWG’s analysis, Booker added, “We know that every one of these schools is an example of a vulnerable population that is being put at risk by reckless attempts by Congress and chemical companies to preempt all state and local pesticide protections, which is being lobbied for by big pesticide companies.”
These proposals, currently under consideration for inclusion in the farm bill being debated in Congress, are supported by various farm, landscaping and pesticide organizations. Such plans also have backing from some corporations, including Bayer-Monsanto, which are pushing for increased pesticide sales and seeking to limit significant legal judgments in favor of individuals who have fallen ill due to exposure to toxic pesticides.
“So-called red and blue states alike across the country have tough pesticide safety laws in place to protect children, but those safeguards could all disappear if a small group in Congress gets its way,” said Faber.
“Parents in every community in the country should be outraged over this scheme to allow pesticide companies and big agriculture to spray toxic crop chemicals whenever and wherever they please,” he added.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.