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Florida Golf Course Discontinues Use of Arsenic Weed Killer

(Beyond Pesticides, October 29, 2009) Concerns from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about groundwater contamination in a golf course have temporarily halted the use of an herbicide by the Tampa Sports Authority. Recent soil and groundwater testing in Tampa has revealed higher than acceptable levels of arsenic that may be attributed to the use of the arsenical herbicide monosodium methanearsonate (MSMA) on the golf course, Rogers Park.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, chronic exposure to organic arsenic, such as MSMA, is known to cause cancer and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and declines in brain functions. It is also been identified as a potential leacher and is toxic to birds, fish, aquatic organisms and bees.

EPA’s Reregulation Eligibility Decision (RED) states that most uses of this product as well as other arsenical herbicides, disodium methanearsonate (DSMA) and hydroxydimethylarsine oxide (cacodylic acid, or sodium salt) are banned except for use on cotton, and will be phased out by the end of 2013, in two phases.

In the meantime, many new restrictions apply in an attempt to protect water resources. For instance, MSMA use on golf courses, sod farms, and highway rights-of-way will be canceled as of December 31, 2012, with use of existing stocks permitted through 2013 –a phase-out approach to regulation that health and environmental advocates have criticized as inadequately protective. The following new use restrictions will apply for golf courses: spot treatments only (100 sq feet per spot), not to exceed 25 percent of the total golf course acreage per year; and one broadcast treatment for newly constructed courses only. In addition, the requests terminate all uses of MSMA in Florida except for use on cotton grown in Calhoun, Columbia, Escambia, Gadsden, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Walton, and Washington counties.

Unfortunately, herbicidal arsenicals are only one small part of the larger problem of herbicides used on golf courses. Golf courses consistently have one of the most highly concentrated per acre use of pesticides than any other land area. The extensive use of pesticides on golf courses raises serious questions about people’s toxic exposure, drift over neighboring communities, water contamination, and effects on wildlife and sensitive ecosystems.

Perhaps more troubling, this particular park has a youth program in which approximately 300 kids came out to hit balls at the golf courses driving range or play a two-hole match game. This in itself negates EPA’s rebuttal to a Golf Digest article last year, “How Green is Golf?,” in which EPA failed to recognize the harmful effects that golf course chemicals may have on children under the age of six if they are exposed. Children are especially vulnerable to lawn chemicals and pesticides and suffer their greatest risk of adverse effect during this period of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of cost effective ways in which golf courses can reduce pesticide use, and many courses around the country are striving for ways to reduce the environmental impact of golf course management by seeking Integrative Pesticide Management (IPM strategies). Leading golf courses, such as Bethpage State Park are proving that they can have fast greens and outstanding playing conditions without the massive load of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

For more information on issues surrounding pesticides and golf, see Beyond Pesticides Golf and the Environment program page. If you like to golf or live near a golf course, check out the Environmental Principles for Golf Courses in the United States, a set of principles jointly developed by a group of leading golf and environmental organizations that seeks to produce environmental excellence in golf course planning and siting, design, construction, maintenance and facility operations, and encourage your local golf course to adopt these principles.

If golf courses can eliminate pesticides, so can homeowners! For more information on cost effective ways of eliminating lawn pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns program page.

Source: Tampa Bay Online


One Response to “Florida Golf Course Discontinues Use of Arsenic Weed Killer”

  1. 1
    mary Says:

    That’s only because it has been in the newspapers in Tampa the past 4 years and Dept Ag didn’t want any more bad publicity!

    So many residents were getting sick around the golf course!

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