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E-M:/ Press Release: Coaliton aims to reduce pesticides in and around schools

For Immediate Release

April 30, 2007



Tess Karwoski, Michigan Environmental Council: 734-717-5887

                                                   Robin Heller, LocalMotion: 313-820-3553


Pesticides and kids: Dangerous springtime ritual

Coalition seeks stronger laws, education on lawn treatments



A broad coalition of health and environmental groups are using today – National Healthy Schools Day – to kick off a year-long effort to educate policy makers and parents about pesticide applications in and around Michigan schools. Such applications routinely expose children to chemicals linked to cancer, asthma and neurological disabilities.


School districts are required by law to notify parents and guardians in advance of such applications, but many never get the message. As spring arrives, children are unwittingly exposed to these pesticides, which largely are unnecessary when nontoxic, common sense alternatives are available.


“We ask that all Michigan residents and school leaders take time to learn more about the toxic nature of pesticides associated with child development. We need a renewed effort to minimize their use around schools,” said Tess Karwoski, health policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council.


Health experts suggest parents press school district administrators for an accounting of pesticide use in their districts. They should also demand to know what nontoxic pest control options have been instituted. Such measures often make pesticide applications unnecessary.


“Springtime regularly brings a forest of warning flags telling people to keep pets and children off treated lawns,” said Robin Heller Executive Director of LocalMotion. “There’s good reason for such warnings.”


According to the watchdog group Beyond Pesticides, of 48 commonly used pesticides in schools: 22 are probable or possible carcinogens, 26 have been shown to cause reproductive effects, 31 damage the nervous system, 31 injure the liver or kidney, 41 are sensitizers or irritants, and 16 can cause birth defects.


Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.


“We’ll be lobbying for stronger laws requiring alternatives to dangerous chemical treatments and requiring better notification to parents and neighbors,” said Karwoski. “In the meantime, it’s important for parents to become informed and to ask hard questions of their schools and communities.”



Organizations supporting stronger laws and education to reduce pesticides in and around schools include:


Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services; American Lung Association of Michigan; Beyond Pesticides; Metro Detroit Clean Water Action; Community Health and Social Services Center/ REACH Detroit Partnership; East Michigan Environmental Action Council; Ecology Center; Friends Alliance for Children and the Environment; Leadership Council of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary;

Michigan League of Conservation Voters; LocalMotion; Michigan Association of School Nurses; Michigan Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides; Michigan Coalition for Children and Families; Michigan Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life; Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health; Michigan Environmental Council; Michigan Land Trustees; Michigan Nurses Association; National Community Development Institution; School Community Health Alliance of Michigan; Sierra Club Michigan Chapter; Southeast Michigan Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health; Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision; Voices for Earth Justice 






Hugh McDiarmid Jr.

Communications Director

Michigan Environmental Council

119 Pere Marquette

Lansing, MI  48912