Pesticides in parks: Dallas suburbs score poorly
Garland, Irving rank in top five
cities for pesticide use per acre
AUSTIN, Texas – A recent study of pesticide use in Texas cities in 1998 uncovered
relatively high levels of pesticide use in two of Dallas’ surrounding suburbs,
while the city of Dallas itself showed more restraint in pesticide applications.
The Texas Pesticide Information Network, an Austin-based nonprofit organization,
surveyed Texas’ largest 26 cities to determine the magnitude, frequency and
potential health risks of toxic chemical use in parks. The results are analyzed
in a report, Play at Your Own Risk: the Hidden Dangers of Pesticide Use in Texas’
City Parks, and accompanying Web site, http://www.txpin.org/parks.
Garland ranked first in the state for total pesticide use, with 11,155 pounds
of pesticide applied to its parks in 1998-nearly three times the volume used
by the city of Dallas itself. Garland ranked second only to Midland in pesticide
use per acre. Irving ranked fifth in total pesticide use with 4,284 pounds;
it came in fourth on the pesticide-per-acre index.
Dallas ranked 20th in pesticide use per acre but came in seventh on the study’s
toxicity index, which weighted each city’s pesticides according to their EPA
toxicity designation. Garland and Irving dropped to the middle of the list in
this area, ranking 11th and 12th, respectively.
Statewide, city parks departments reported using 75,000 pounds of pesticides
in Texas public parks in 1998, almost one-third of which classify as moderately
or highly toxic under Environmental Protection Agency standards.
"Contrary to popular conception, pesticides are not safe, particularly
for children," said Reggie James, director of CU’s Southwest Regional Office.
"When even seemingly benign pest-killers are linked to cancer, it’s time
to examine the potential dangers we’re exposed to every day in the name of pretty
grass and ant-free picnics."
The 26 cities surveyed include a combined population of 8.8 million people
and 2,922 city parks occupying more than 76,000 acres. In addition to the 75,000
pounds of pesticides applied, the cities reported using at least 100,000 pounds
of "weed-and-feed" fertilizers often laced with pesticides.
While communities in other states, including California and New York, have
begun to phase out toxic pesticide practices, a law passed in Texas in 1993
actually prohibits cities from regulating pesticide sales and use. Texas also
lags behind states that require city parks departments to report their pesticide
"Since Texas does not require cities to report even basic details about
pesticide use, as some states now do, it is difficult to make a comprehensive
assessment of the potential effects of pesticide use in city parks," said
Mary Kelly, director of the Texas Center for Policy Studies. "Furthermore,
without a reporting requirement, there is little public oversight or accountability
for pesticide use in parks and incentives for using healthier alternatives to
pesticides may be reduced."
Of the cities surveyed, Midland ranked first both in pesticide use per acre
and percentage of toxic pesticide applications, with 74 percent of its pesticides
bearing the EPA’s DANGER label (second only to the agency’s POISON/DANGER distinction.)
Odessa and Brownsville ranked next in toxicity, while Garland, Wichita Falls,
Irving and Tyler followed Midland in pesticide use per acre.
Cities with the lowest pesticide use indices included Corpus Christi, El Paso,
College Station, San Antonio and Lubbock.
The golf courses CU surveyed used four times more pesticides per acre than
other types of parks on average. They also tended to use more toxic pesticides.
Herbicide use accounted for a whopping 75 percent of the cities’ total pesticide
applications, while insecticides represented 19 percent of applications. Particularly
troubling is the widespread use of the herbicide glyphosphate, sold in stores
as Roundup, Rodeo and Kleen-Up, which has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Twelve cities out of 26 said they used the insecticide Dursban and similar
insecticides containing the active ingredient chlorpyrifos – banned by the EPA
in June 2000 because of its potential adverse effects on children’s nervous
system and brain development. Dursban accounted for more than one-quarter of
overall insecticide applications in parks.
The EPA ruling allows Dursban to remain on retail shelves through December
2001. Professional applicators may continue using existing stock of Dursban
after its sale is banned.
"This study has two broad implications," James said. "One,
it’s time for Texas to institute a reporting requirement to better track pesticide
use. Two, the state Legislature should give communities back the power to regulate
pesticides and explore healthier alternatives. Why does it make sense to deprive
a municipality of the right to control its own pesticide use, when safer parks
Key policy recommendations in the CU report include:
· Keep local pesticide use information in a central location, preferably
computerized in a format easily accessible to the public, government officials
and pest control professionals.
· Require cities over a certain size to report annual pesticide use
information to the Texas Structural Pest Control Board for analysis and examination.
· Repeal the state law that prohibits any city, county or other local
body from regulating its own pesticide use.
· Post visible, informative and easy-to-understand notice before and
after pesticide application in public parks.
· Require that local governments adopt an "integrated pest management"
policy in public parks that reduces pesticide use wherever possible and uses
the least toxic treatments available when pesticide use is unavoidable. Texas’
public school districts have already implemented IPM policies.
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