2006-07-27 / Front Page
Environmentalists aim to make parks pesticide-free
NJEF campaign tells towns chemicals harm residents, waterways
BY ANUM AZAM
As part of a community campaign, New Jersey Environmental Federation (NJEF) canvass staff are knocking on doors in Rumson, Shrewsbury and Tinton Falls to raise public awareness that the use of pesticides on public lands is harmful to people who use the parks and to local waterways
"They knock on doors, working on getting members and promoting concern about clean air and water. We urge people to write letters to the editors of their local papers about these issues," said Jane Nogaki, NJEF's Pesticides Campaign coordinator.
She continued, "We're asking towns to designate playgrounds and parks as 'Pesticide Free Zones,' because the hazards to children are higher, because they are more vulnerable to pesticide use."
Pesticide exposure is directly linked to the development of cancers in children, as well as kidney damage and birth defects, according to NJEF literature.
NJEF's pesticide reduction campaign is part of the organization's larger plan to urge town mayors and councils to pass integrated pest management (IPM) policy resolutions and to designate parks and playgrounds as pesticide-free zones.
The NJEF is the state's largest environmental organization, and its efforts have helped more than 50 towns in the state to pass IPM resolutions.
The towns of Clifton, Chatham, Brick and Ocean City, as well as all of the towns in Burlington County, have designated parks as "Pesticide Free Zones" and displayed the "friendly PFZ ladybug signs," indicating that the areas are safe for children to play, according to NJEF Communications Coordinator Jenny Vickers.
NJEF also believes that the quality of drinking water is suffering because of the heightened use of pesticides, a claim that is supported by a United States Geological Survey (USGS) report released in March, a press release on the community organizing campaign states.
The USGS report found not only that pesticides are permeating New Jersey water supplies, but that the ubiquitous pesticides atrazine, alachlor and cyanazine were detected at concentrations that exceeded health benchmarks, a "potential threat to municipal water supplies in the Raritan River basin," the release states.
These pesticides are found in many fertilizers that are used by homeowners, as well as in agriculture and on golf ranges, said Nogaki.
"Waterways are prone to runoff. Pesticides wash down drains into waterways, such as the Navesink. These smaller waterways lead into the ocean, which affects water life," she continued.
"New Jersey waterways have been tested and they've found pesticides there," said Nogaki, "though in most cases they were below drinking-water standards."
The damaging effects of pesticide runoff into major waterways such as the Navesink River also extend to aquatic wildlife, since the foreign substances contribute to river eutrophication, according to the NJEF.
"The entire food chain is affected. Pesticides have been found in fish," said Nogaki.
Eutrophication, the enrichment of an ecosystem with nitrogenous or phosphorous-containing nutrients such as those found in agricultural runoff, is considered a form of pollution because it promotes random plant growth, which can have disastrous effects on a delicate aquatic ecosystem, said Nogaki.
The enhanced growth of algae and phytoplankton due to the added nutrients disrupts the normal functioning of an ecosystem because it limits the oxygen supply and beneath the surface of the algae-covered water, other organisms depend on high dissolved oxygen concentrations.
Eutrophication decreases the resource value of lakes and rivers, restricting recreation, fishing and hunting, and adverse health effects occur where eutrophic conditions interfere with drinking-water treatment, according to a paper published by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Nogaki voiced the NJEF's growing concern about clean water.
"All these fertilizers are contributing to oxygen depletion in waterways, choking them off with weed growth. Increased proliferation of nonpoint pollution causes overgrowing, and the excessive growth depletes oxygen that fish need to survive," she said.
NJEF and WHO publications maintain that agriculture and development are the major activities that contribute to nutrient overload in waterways.
So far, the efforts of the NJEF pesticide reduction campaign have been limited to an awareness campaign.
"The canvassing staff is out there knocking on doors, spreading information, and encouraging the community to write letters to Gov. [Jon] Corzine," said Vickers.
"The NJEF plays a big role. We write a letter to mayors and town councils and let them know we're in town. We send them a packet with a sample resolution in it, two news articles pertaining to PFZ in other towns, and information about IPM leaders in the state. Then, the canvassing staff goes door to door and asks people to send more letters," she explained.
"We definitely want to get the message out there about Pesticide Free Zones."
For more information on the NJEF campaign, including pesticide-free lawn tips, visit www.pesticidefreelawns.org.