Lawrence Ledger (Lawrenceville, N.J.)
August 11, 2005

Rep. Holt seeks pesticide limits

The congressman wants federal limits on the use of pesticides at, and
near, schools.

QUOTABLE: "It's time that we start being more precautionary, instead
of giving children a daily dose of chemicals as they try to live and
learn," said Ms. Roberts. "We need to pass this bill."  Rep. Holt

By Kate Herts

Concern that children are being overexposed to pesticides in an
environment presumed to be safe -- their schools -- has prompted U.S.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) to introduce legislation to place federal
restrictions on pesticide use at, and near, schools.

Exposure to pesticides can leave children more susceptible to learning
and behavioral disorders, asthma and certain childhood cancers, he
warned at a news conference Aug. 4 at Lawrence Elementary School,
which was attended by several state officials.

Rep. Holt's legislation, the School Environmental Protection Act (H.R.
11), would require local educational agencies and schools to implement
integrated pest management systems to minimize the use of pesticides
in schools, and provide for notification of the use of such chemicals.

"This has to do with the poisoning of children," said Rep. Holt, a
Hopewell Township resident. "There has been concern for years about
the exposure of children to dangerous pesticides. We feel that
children deserve a special measure of protection, not only because
they are our future -- not only because they play without concern for
the environment -- but because they have a higher sensitivity to
chemical because they are growing."

In Lawrence, the school district has already taken the necessary steps
to protect students and faculty from the dangers of pesticides,
according to Thomas Eldrige, district business administrator. The
district does not spray pesticides near any buildings or on the
athletic fields and inside, if pest like roaches or mice are found,
the animals are trapped and the food source contributing to the
problem is removed, he said.

"The district has an integrated pest management plan," Mr. Eldrige
said in an interview Friday. "And we are forwarding a formal policy
along those lines to (the school board) to adopt in September." Mike
Azzara, outreach coordinator for the Northeast Organic Farming
Association, noted at the press conference that Lawrence Elementary
School even has a pesticide free garden, from which a lot of the food
in the cafeteria is served.

Still, at the national level, pesticides are a major threat, said Rep.
Holt, whose legislation hasn't yet been brought to the floor.

"The objection is that I am talking about a potential and unlikely
threat," said Rep. Holt. "Well, we now have a study recently published
in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that shows
that the children of America are being poisoned."

This type of slow, subtle poisoning, which is commonly underdiagnosed,
is exactly what the government has a particular responsibility to
protect children against, he said.

The peer-reviewed JAMA study, "Acute Illnesses Associated With
Pesticide Exposure at Schools," analyzed 2,593 poisonings from 1998 to
2002. It found that incidence rates of acute pesticide-related
illnesses among children increased significantly from 1998 to 2002.
More than two-thirds of poisonings were associated with pesticide use
at school.

The study pointed to the absence of federal law regulating pesticide
use, according to Matthew Dennis, a spokesman for Rep. Holt. There is
substantial medical evidence linking chronic asthma and certain
childhood asthma to pesticide exposure, state Sen. Barbara Buono, (D-
Metuchen) said at the press conference.

"Children breathe in more air per pound, so they are more vulnerable,"
she said. "There is a link between pesticide exposure and acute
illness not just in schoolchildren, but also in school employees. We
don't know the magnitude of this problem, which is why it's so
important to have legislation on the federal level."

Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, (D-Plainsboro), also lent her support
to Mr. Holt's efforts.

"Congressman Holt's School Protection Act is a vital step forward for
our entire country," said Ms. Greenstein. "We'll do everything we can
on the state level to help the congressman make this happen."

This legislation recognizes some common sense facts, said New Jersey
Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley Campbell.
The three central principles of Rep. Holt's legislation are to avoid
pesticide use, minimize it and notify the community of pesticide use,
he said.

"It is a needed complement to our state efforts," said Mr. Campbell,
citing federal funding and harsher penalties provided by the new
legislation. "The federal government hasn't moved quickly enough on
Congressman Holt's legislation because they are not moving quickly
enough on any legislation needed to protect our kids. We hope that on
this issue, Washington gets the message."

Rep. Holt noted that many people question whether pesticide poisoning
is a real threat.

"But the JAMA study makes it clear that this is real," he said.
"Parents around the country aren't aware of this threat."

The biggest challenge to this type of legislation is enforcement, said
Michelle Roberts, project director of Beyond Pesticides, a Washington,
D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting public health.

"It's time that we start being more precautionary, instead of giving
children a daily dose of chemicals as they try to live and learn,"
said Ms. Roberts. "We need to pass this bill." Rep. Holt agreed.

"As I stand here and watch the wasps fly by, I'm reminded of the
problem," he said. "We need to institute Integrated Pest Management, a
common sense way of taking care of the problem." Jane Nogaki,
Pesticide Program coordinator of the New Jersey Environmental
Federation, emphasized that where kids play and go to school should be
pesticide- free zones.

"The measure of pesticide residue in children's blood is two to 10
times higher than in parents," said Ms. Nogaki. "We'd like to make a
pledge of assistance to school systems as they learn how to do
integrated pest management." Federally funded studies have found that
one-third of the U.S. population is affected by chemical exposures,
said Mary Lamielle, executive director for the National Center for
Environmental Health Strategies.

"Pesticides have been identified as the primary exposure causing such
levels of illness and disability," she said.

"Most parents, teachers, administrators and support staff give no
thought to building maintenance issues such as pest control
practices," Ms. Lamielle continued. "It's one of those areas that we
get smart about only if it becomes essential to our well-being. They
don't know what's used in the local school or their workplace. They
don't know how to find out. They don't know the potential dangers."

Rep. Holt said he expects the report will help spur the national and
state efforts.

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