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Children's Pesticide Safeguards Advance

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TRENTON - A bill that would make New Jersey a national leader in limiting children's pesticide exposure was released with unanimous support of members of a Senate environment panel Monday.

The measure, dubbed "The Child Safe Playing Field Act," would prohibit the use of most lawn pesticides on public and private school playgrounds, recreational fields, and day-care centers. Low-impact organic pesticide applications would be allowed, and there is an exception that allows stronger pesticides during emergencies, such as insect infestations.

"This is a bill that would indeed protect our children, particularly in their most vulnerable stages of life," said Sen. Shirley Turner, a Trenton Democrat and the prime sponsor.

The proposal would be the most far-reaching in the nation, said Jane Nogaki, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Environmental Federation. A similar law in New York state covers just school grounds where students are in kindergarten through 12th grade, she said, while Connecticut's version is limited to K-8 schools.

If New Jersey's proposal were to become law, all but a small class of lawn pesticides would be banned from public and private school grounds, including high schools; recreation fields owned by municipalities, counties, or the state; and all day-care centers.

Only Canada has a more extensive prohibition: No cosmetic pesticide use is allowed, said John Boechner of the New Jersey Green Industry Council, which represents the lawn-care and pest-management industries and opposes the measure.

The New Jersey bill expands a 2002 law requiring schools to develop Integrated Pest Management plans that combine pest control, building maintenance, and sanitation practices. That law encourages the use of low-impact pesticides and requires notification before applications.

Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club, who testified in support of the bill, said the new proposal strengthens the existing law, which was groundbreaking at the time. 

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