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Daily News Archive

Children’s Playing Fields Managed by Chemical Companies
(Beyond Pesticides, August 31, 2004)
The lawns and fields of the 2004 International School Children's Games, held in Cleveland, OH, were put into the hands of chemical companies this year. On July 29 through August 2, children from 55 countries the world over arrived to play sports at the Games, which were held for the first time in the United States.

Project Evergreen was the industry organization in charge of the fields. The group is an alliance of lawn industry companies, associations and professionals. Their involvement in the School Children’s Games contributes to their massive public relations effort to tote their work as environmentally friendly. Despite the fact that their major sponsors include chemical manufacturers such as Dow and Bayer and the pesticide-dependent lawn company TruGreen ChemLawn, the alliance uses catch phrases that imply environmental responsibility. For example, this year at the School Children’s Games, the slogan, “Protecting Nature’s Playground” was posted on the fields, giving a sense of safety and protection for the children participating. Listed underneath these words are the parties involved: TruGreen ChemLawn, Weed Man and Lesco. TruGreen ChemLawn is involved in a similar relationship with U.S. Youth Soccer, as reported in the November 4, 2003 Daily News. These partnerships are alarming as children are uniquely vulnerable to poisoning from the toxic herbicides and chemicals that TruGreen ChemLawn regularly uses. Using hazardous chemicals on athletic fields is especially distressing since bodies of children and youths are often in direct contact with the grass.

Consumer knowledge of pesticide hazards to children is important, but difficult considering the scope of Project Evergreen’s public relations scheme, which includes ads, brochures and a repeated use of the word “green.” Many can misunderstand this as a statement of environmentally friendliness. Project Evergreen continually brings up the importance of their “green industry,” that they are trying to “keep it green,” and are dedicated to “preserving and enhancing green spaces.” While this sounds enticing, many of their sponsoring companies manufacture or use lawn care chemicals that are linked with cancer, birth defects, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney or liver damage and sensitization, water contamination, and harm to bees, birds and fish.

Evergreen's PR campaign is not only aimed at consumers, but companies in the landscape industry. An ad that Project Evergreen placed in lawn care industry publications points the finger at “activists, extremists and misinformed politicians” for the current paradigm shift toward less toxic, healthy lawns. The ad states, “If the services our industry professionals offer are restricted, regulated, or made illegal, everyone will lose revenue and customers.” Driving pesticide applicators against regulation of the toxic poisons they use is a disservice to their health and the health of their customers. In addition, the ad considers chemical use as the only option for the industry, despite the fact that a green lawn is entirely possible without hazardous pesticides that put the public and environment at risk. A multitude of lawn care companies across the nation have opted for least toxic and non-toxic means of lawn care. Check out Beyond Pesticides’ online directory The Safety Source for Pest Management for profiles and contact information of many of these companies.

TAKE ACTION: Contact the International Schoolsport Federation (ISF), sponsor of the International School Children’s Games, to voice your concerns over Project Evergreen’s involvement. Let them know of the unique vulnerability children face from pesticide exposure and that safe and effective alternatives exist for healthy lawns. For more information on safer school athletic field management, contact Beyond Pesticides. Employ these same alternatives on your own lawn and protect your family and your environment.

If you own or know of a lawn care company or pest management company that practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM), get the word out! Inclusion in our online directory Safety Source is free. We just need some information to provide consumers. Contact Beyond Pesticides for more information.