Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Our kids deserve parks free from persistent pesticides

A jury in San Francisco just ruled that Roundup, a widely used weed killer, was a key cause of a man’s cancer. A few months earlier, a California school groundskeeper was awarded $78 million in damages after a jury determined that Roundup gave him lymphoma.

These cases are just two of many. Thousands of people — mainly cancer patients and family members of those who died — have initiated pesticide-related lawsuits.

These cases add to a growing body of evidence that commonly used pesticides are dangerous. Unfortunately, children are particularly vulnerable to these harmful chemicals. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that about half of the average person’s lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during their first five years.

Controlling weeds and insects shouldn’t take precedence over our children’s health. Local officials and community advocates must lead the way in weaning our nation off these chemicals.

Pesticides can cause severe health problems. They may trigger or worsen asthma, allergies, autism, and ADHD. They have even been linked to nerve and organ problems, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and cancers.

Yet pesticides remain widely used in our playgrounds, parks and ball fields, where children can easily absorb these toxins. As noted pediatrician Philip Landrigan, Director of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital’s Center for Children’s Health and the Environment recently explained, “Children have a larger surface-to-volume ratio and more permeable skin, leading to greater skin absorption of toxic chemicals.”

Children struggle to detoxify and excrete harmful chemicals, as their livers and kidneys are still developing. Children also have faster respiratory rates than adults, so they literally breathe in more pollutants.

Unfortunately, federal regulators have shown little interest in curbing the use of pesticides. Funding for toxic-chemical regulation has been declining. And in 2018, the EPA dismantled the National Center for Environmental Research, which studies the effects of toxic chemicals on kids.

That’s why local leaders must take action.

In Irvine, California, thanks to the leadership of several parents who spearheaded a group now called Non Toxic Neighborhoods, the city passed a historic resolution in 2016 to stop using hazardous chemicals in parks. Now, the city employs organic methods instead.

Also in 2016, South Portland, Maine, passed an ordinance restricting pesticide use on all public and private property. Under the ordinance, only organic pesticides or those classified as “minimum risk” by the EPA are allowed.

In 2017, residents in Naperville, Illinois launched a group — dubbed “Non-Toxic Naperville” — that successfully lobbied officials to eliminate the use of Roundup in city playgrounds. Already, Naperville Park District has moved away from synthetic chemicals in all 73 of its playgrounds — and eight of its 137 parks. Officials plan to monitor soil in these parks and, if all goes well, transition even more acreage to natural fertilizers and herbicides.

Some critics falsely claim that organic methods are ineffective and expensive. In reality, organic management can improve soil quality and boost the health of the turf. It has even proven to cost towns and taxpayers less than conventionally managed fields after the soil is brought back to a healthy state.

More communities should embrace organic land management. The company I co-founded is helping them do so. In collaboration with Non Toxic Neighborhoods, Beyond Pesticides, and Osborne Organics, Stonyfield will invest nearly $1 million to help 35 communities convert their playing fields and parks to organic management over three years. We hope to inspire many other similar initiatives.

Parents have enough to worry about. They shouldn’t have to fret about cancer-causing pesticides at the playground.

Gary Hirshberg is Cofounder and Chief Organic Optimist of Stonyfield Organic.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and members of the orchestra were thrilled to be back inside Davies Symphony Hall on May 6 in a program for first responders featuring string works by Jean Sibelius, George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Caroline Shaw and Edward Grieg. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Symphony)
SF Symphony makes joyful return to Davies Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts program for first responders and community leaders

Stores including Walgreens and Safeway are required to pay their employees additional hazard pay under a city ordinance that is currently set to expire later this month. (Shutterstock)
Grocery workers could gain additional weeks of $5 per hour hazard pay

San Francisco will vote next week on whether to extend a law… Continue reading

The fatal shooting of San Francisco resident Roger Allen by Daly City police on April 7 prompted protests in both cities. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Daly City approves body-worn and vehicle cameras for police after fatal shooting

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police… Continue reading

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays attends an event to honor the San Francisco Giants' 2014 World Series victory on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Willie Mays turns 90: San Francisco celebrates the greatest Giant

By Al Saracevic Examiner staff writer I couldn’t believe it. Willie Mays… Continue reading

Most Read