Pesticides in parks: Study ranks Midland ranks first
in pesticide use per acre, percentage of toxic pesticides
percent of pest-killers in Midland’s parks carried EPA’s "DANGER"
AUSTIN, Texas – Midland trumped cities several times its size in pesticide use in 1998, ranking third statewide in overall volume and first in pesticide use per acre, according to a study released today by the Texas Pesticide Information Network.
The Texas Pesticide Information Network, an Austin-based nonprofit organization,
surveyed Texas’ 26 largest cities to determine the magnitude, frequency and
potential health risks of toxic chemical use in parks. The results of the study
are presented 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.
Midland used 7,719 pounds of pesticides
in its public parks in 1998, exceeded only by Forth Worth and Garland. When
the cities were ranked according to pesticide use per acre, though, Midland
jumped to first place, with more than seven pounds applied for each acre of
parkland it maintained.
Midland fared no better in the study’s
toxicity index, computed by weighting each city’s pesticides according to their
Environmental Protection Agency toxicity designations. Midland again ranked
first, with 74 percent of its pesticides bearing the EPA’s "DANGER"
label-second only to the "POISON/DANGER" rating the agency assigns
to the most acutely toxic chemicals available.
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 practices.
"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
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 in animals.
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 demand it?"
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
· Post visible, informative
and easy-to-understand notice before and after pesticide application in public
· 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.