Coastal Post Online












(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

April, 2006


Pesticides and Kids Don't Mix
By Ginger Souders-Mason

When English teacher Bart Gibbons assigned his sixth grade class at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera to write a letter to the editor, he thought he was just giving them a writing assignment. Little did he realize that he was creating a community activist.
Albert Brown, his family and friends call him Albie, visited his neighborhood park after school on Friday and discovered small signs posted around the playing field. They said on Monday at 6:30 AM someone was going to spray Round-up Pro on half an acre of the park. This didn't seem right to Albie who also has dog.

Albie figured this was a good time to practice what he had learned in school so he wrote letters to the editors of three newspapers. To better express why he didn't like the idea of spraying he did a lot of research. He didn't stop there. He called his friends, who told their parents, who called others in the community from Supervisors to activists. They finally connected with the General Manager and two board members of the TCSD (Tamalpias Community Service District). They requested that the decision to spray be changed. Because the concerned neighbors were not positive what would happen on Monday morning they decided to meet at the park with signs to make sure their park was not sprayed.

So in the rain on Monday morning they were met in the park by TCSD General Manager John Elam who assured the cadre of kids, dogs and adults there would be no pesticides used during the reconstruction of Eastwood Park. He further agreed with the neighbors request that the park become a "Pesticide Free Zone" with signs to that effect.

These neighbors were lucky. Had the notice not been placed in the park no one would have ever known that pesticide were going to be sprayed. From scientific studies we know that Round-up attach to soil particles or to the bottom of shoes and pet's paws. The contaminants then find their way into our homes where neither sun light, water nor bacterial action are available to break down the chemical. In years past and unknown to neighbors, Eastwood Park maintenance had sprayed the beloved blackberry bushes. It was only after the color and taste was not right did people ask questions and by that time many contaminated berries had been consumed.

Eastwood Park will be a safer place for people and pets in the future because these park users are now aware and will make sure their park is not sprayed again. But what about parks and even homes where no one knows pesticides are being used. Case in point is Vedanta Hindu Retreat Center in Olema.

Visitors to the center enjoy the lush green lawn and peaceful surroundings. When asked if chemicals were used to maintain their property one of the residences, George stated that he "wouldn't be caught dead using pesticides." He further stated, "we are very conscious of the environment here." However when you look at the pesticide use report forms filed with the Marin Agricultural Commissioner we find that in 2005 eleven gallons of 2,4,D were used at Vendata.

New research from the University of Liverpool suggests that environmental contaminants, such as pesticides, are more influential in causing cancer than previously thought. Professor Howard writes that "Environmental contaminants - in particular synthetic pesticides and organochlorines with hormone-disrupting properties - could be a major factor in causing hormone-dependent malignancies such as breast, testicular and prostate cancers."

How many Marin residences are unknowingly being exposed to pesticides because, just as in the case of the retreat center, no one thinks to ask the landscaper if they are using pesticides. Landscape companies working on private property are not required to post warning signs. The TCSD had signs posted only because of the County IPM Ordinance which requires 72 hour pre application notice and it was only recently that CSD's have begun to come under that law.

With the high rates of cancer in Marin we should be extremely vigilant and eliminate unneeded, stealth exposures to pesticides. We need more Albies; people who will speak up and demand a pesticide free environment. We should all live in "Pesticide Free Zones."

Coastal Post Home Page