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Pesticides Found on School Grounds

(Beyond Pesticides, July 2, 2007) Dangerous pesticides have been found in soil samples taken from the grounds of the West Brook Middle School in Paramus, New Jersey. The concentrations found exceed state safety standards and concerns are being raised over why the school took no action once it knew about the contaminants.

One of the chemicals found is chlordane. Chlordane is an organochlorine classified by the EPA as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen and is also associated with adverse neurological and gastrointestinal effects. Studies also report an association between chlordane exposure and non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma. Chlordane was registered in the U.S. in 1948 and was used as a pesticide on agricultural crops and gardens until 1978 when its registered uses on food crops and other above ground uses were cancelled. In 1988, all uses of chlordane were cancelled. This pesticide however, is persistent in soil and the environment and has been found in air samples, fish tissue, and recent studies have linked organochlorines like chlordane to breast cancer.

The Record, a New Jersey newspaper, commissioned the tests to be carried out by Aqua Pro-Tech Laboratories, which revealed that chlordane at 17 parts per billion were on the school’s soccer field. The state’s safety standard for chlordane is 250 parts per billion.

Chief Operating Officer of Aqua Pro-Tech Laboratories, Robert Barrett said that chlordane at those levels should not be present on a playing field. “This shouldn’t be there, especially on the soccer field.”

These results were revealed just one day after Paramus Mayor James Tedesco and the Borough Council reported similar results of tests conducted by the borough through Melick-Tully and Associates.

Parents, teachers and students were not alerted about the situation until May, even though test results were available to school officials in January. On June 2, The Record’s reporter and photographer, as well as the lab technician they hired were arrested as they collected soil samples and charged with trespassing. Outrage over the school’s inaction has led Mayor Tedesco to call for the resignation of the borough schools superintendent.

The source of the chlordane and the other chemicals found, which also include the duo dieldrin and aldrin, is unclear. However Paramus, where the school was built, was mostly farmland, making it probable that these pesticides were applied historically in the area for agricultural use. West Brook Middle School has been closed indefinitely and more tests are scheduled. Clean up of the contaminated soil is currently underway. Surrounding districts are now considering testing their schools for contaminants.

Children are most at risk from pesticide exposure. The body of evidence in scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels. Beyond Pesticides’ Healthy Schools Project aims to minimize and eliminate the risks posed by pesticides through the adoption of school pest management policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level, thereby creating a healthier learning environment. Central to this effort are activities aimed at public education on pesticide hazards and efficacy of alternatives, and the continued development of model communities that serve as examples.

For more information, please visit: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/schools/index.htm

Source: Bergen County Record (June 16, June 27, June 29)

TAKE ACTION: Get involved and sign the protocol for School Pesticide Reform at http://www.beyondpesticides.org/toxicfreeschools/action.htm.


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