Legislation to Keep Pesticides Away from Schools, Classrooms, Community Parks, and Playgrounds

By B.N. Frank

Concerns about pesticides are not going away.  Earlier this year, the Beyond Pesticides organization updated their research database and also introduced their new Pesticide Topic Submission Portal.

More recently the group reported good news from New Mexico:

New Mexico bill will protect children from toxic pesticides where they learn and play

Santa Fe, New Mexico, February 11, 2021)—New Mexico State Senator Brenda McKenna introduced the Public Schools Pesticide Management Act (PSPMA) (SB 326) in order to protect school children from exposure to toxic pesticides where they learn and play. The legislation advances ecological pest management, an environmentally healthy way to protect children and the public from weeds and pests, within all schools, classrooms, community parks, and playgrounds in the state. Under PSPMA, only organic and minimum risk pesticides, the least toxic, yet still-effective products on the market will be allowed. Toxic pesticide use will be permitted only under a defined public health emergency, as determined by a public health official. The law does not address the use of pesticides in farming or agriculture.

“All children in New Mexico have the right to a safe environment where they learn and play,” said State Senator Brenda McKenna. “This legislation embraces an environmentally healthy approach to pest management, so families do not have to worry about the use of toxic pesticides in schools and communities.”

Pesticide exposure presents unique dangers to children’s health. Children’s developing organ systems are less able to detoxify harmful chemicals, and they often come into closer contact with pesticides than adults in public spaces like parks and playgrounds. Peer-reviewed studies show pesticide exposure is linked to a wide range of childhood diseases.

“One of our main concerns in New Mexico is the widespread use of pesticide management which employs the use of glyphosate or roundup, now a proven carcinogen. It is used in products widely employed in public areas as well as acequias,” said Eleanor Bravo of the New Mexico state group Common Ground Rising. “Exposure of children to toxic pesticides has been linked to attention and learning problems as well as cancer.”

“There is no national systematic reporting on the use of pesticides by consumers or licensed professionals,” Eleanor Bravo notes. “The New Mexico Pesticide Control Act was written in the ’50s and does not come close to managing the host of substances that are now employed.  Our duty to our children must be paramount in our efforts to give them the best possible environment in which to grow.  New Mexico is last in the country for child welfare.  Let’s prioritize our children’s well-being by passing this important groundbreaking legislation.”

“There have been many peer reviewed studies that show endocrine disruption from pesticides,” said Elaine Cimino of Common Ground Rising. “We are seeing how this impacts children’s hormonal growth. It is extremely important we provide healthy and safe environments for our children.”

“As the Mother of four school age children, I fully support switching to safer, non-toxic pest management, so our children have safe places to learn and play, said Anni Elwell Hanna, of New Mexico Climate Justice. “This would be a win for children, families and our communities.”

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourages states to implement safer pest management practices at schools, it is not mandatory, and New Mexico’s current laws do little to stop children’s exposure to toxic pesticides. The ecological pest management approach outlined within the PSPMA will effectively and economically replace the use of toxic pesticides with natural and sustainable pest management practices.

“New Mexico is way past due in its efforts to protect our children from toxic chemicals,” said Mary Ellen Capek of Philanthropy Research and Consulting. “PSPMA will not only help us catch up with other states, this law will position NM as a national leader in efforts to prevent toxic chemicals from affecting children’s growth and development. We have more than enough scientific data that document  the damage these pesticides cause, and with the cooperation of the Department of Education, NM school districts will be able to create a wide reaching, comprehensive program that showcases the latest in nontoxic pesticide management and keeps our children healthy.”

“As the science on the dangers pesticides pose to children continues to accumulate, experience from states and communities across the country is showing that these chemicals are not necessary to maintain pest-free schools and playable turf fields in a cost-effective way,” said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director at the national nonprofit Beyond Pesticides. “We thank Senator McKenna for introducing this important bill and urge passage by the state legislature.”

Senate Bill 326, the Public Schools Pesticide Management Act, will be heard before the following Committees: Senate Education, Senate Conservation and Senate Finance.


TAKE ACTION: If you are resident of New Mexico, tell your elected state senator and representative to support pesticide protections where children learn and play…AND share our infographic on the Public Schools Pesticide Management Act with your social networks to generate even more support!

For those concerned about exposure to additional environmental toxins, Environmental Health Trust has posted a recommended list of films.

Image: Pixabay

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