Pesticides on Little League Fields

By Mindy MacLaren

After my own experience with multiple exposures to agricultural pesticides a decade ago, and the resulting awareness of actually how UN-aware we are as a society to what pesticides truly are (chemicals designed to kill), I’ve become vigilant in my stance against their use, especially in areas that are frequented by people; children in particular. So oblivious are we to the effects of these poisons that they are used in various public spaces, the most ironic of which are medical campuses- where health is supposed to be the point- and cemeteries (what’s the point?). I try, whenever possible, to help others understand that these poisons and their effects should be taken seriously. So it was that, on October 10, I happened to be driving by the Penfield Little League fields on Atlantic Avenue, when I noticed multiple yellow flags that indicated pesticides had recently been sprayed there. I pulled over to take some pictures, posted below, which I’ve edited with a red dot at the location of each yellow flag. A bit overkill, don’t you think? Especially since it’s children who play on these fields and on the adjacent playground; children are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of these toxins, especially with repeated exposure. Read more here.

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I posted the pictures on my Facebook page and soon after got a message from Carol Chittenden of the Empire State Consumer Project (ESCP) who offered to reach out to the town to learn more about this situation and to make those in charge aware of the issue. ESCP describes their mission as: “…founded in 1971, is a registered 501c3 Not-for-Profit Organization dedicated to reducing the use of pesticides and other chemicals toxic to human and environmental health. We accomplish this by educating consumers and industry, conducting product testing and reporting, and by advocating for regulation where needed to protect the public interest.” On October 25, Carol wrote the following letter to the Penfield Town Board:

“Town of Penfield Pesticide Use and Children’s Health Risk
Dear Supervisor LaFountain and Penfield Town Board Members:
I am Carol Chittenden with Empire State Consumer Project (ESCP)…We have been made aware by a Penfield resident that the Little League fields adjacent to Penfield Town Hall were treated with pesticides this month. Penfield Parks Foreman, Tim Masterton tells me the applications are contracted for by the Town and paid for by Penfield Little League.
In 2001, due to the health risks posed to children by pesticides, New York State banned the use of pesticides on school grounds When this law passed, most towns stopped treating their parks, playing fields, and playgrounds.
Pesticides, including that used on the Penfield Little League grounds, are related to impaired immunity, autism, testicular defects, childhood cancer, leukemia, breast cancer, cognitive development, asthma, and impaired sexual development.
The attached photos show that the Town posted 24 hour warning signs on the property, but pesticides are persistent in the environment and are carried indoors. Exposure to children is cumulative and comes from many sources, including commercial and residential properties. Children are at highest risk from exposure, due to their proximity to the ground, their smaller body size, and their still developing brains, other organs, and immune systems.
We had hoped that, when the State banned pesticides at schools, local towns would have stopped treating parks and playing fields and we are asking the Town of Penfield to discontinue their use. Our 2014 pesticide survey (attached) shows that Penfield has been one of the heaviest pesticide users in the area. Would you please let us know your intentions regarding the continued use of pesticides on Town lands?
Thank you very much.
Carol Chittenden, Director
Empire State Consumer Project”
While the Parks foreman was forthcoming with information about what has been sprayed on the Little League fields, the town board has not responded to a follow up email nor to a call made just yesterday (11/13). The call, that Carol Chittenden made, went like this: “I just called the supervisor again and his assistant could not tell me if or when they will be discussing the issue. I told her we’re having a press conference on Thursday and wondered if I could say they are looking at it, looking at eliminating or anything and she said no.” The press conference Carol refers to is ESCP’s annual assessment of potential risks to human health from chemicals; this year’s focus is on pesticides and children.
So while there may be valid reasons why the town board hasn’t discussed this issue yet, since they won’t respond, I couldn’t tell you what those reasons might be. I find their total lack of any response unacceptable and disheartening. They couldn’t even acknowledge receiving ESCP’s email! Unfortunately, Penfield ranks high on their list of local towns’ use of pesticides, so this seems to be par for the course. It’s quite maddening that our elected officials can’t be moved to even communicate, especially when contacted by an outside source. Even with the possibility of being called out publicly at a press conference that all the local news outlets take seriously, the Penfield town board feels it doesn’t have to provide an answer.

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