On July 1, a new law went into effect in Connecticut, banning the use of synthetic pesticides on school lawns, including preschools, kindergartens and buildings that serve students through the eighth grade.
The law was adopted out of concern for the link between pesticide exposure and children's health as well as concerns about the effect of pesticides on the environment and nearby groundwater supplies. It was originally passed by the state's General Assembly five years ago. At the time, Connecticut was the only state to have such a law on the books, but since then New York has also recently passed a similar measure. After a number of revisions and delays, Connecticut's law finally went in to effect in time for the 2010-11 school year.
And now, synthetic pesticides like Merit and Roundup that used to be a fixture of school lawn care, are no longer approved for use.
The law applies only to lawn care products, not pesticides for indoor use, and doesn't prevent schools from using pesticides to control a specific health threat — such as the threat of West Nile virus from mosquitoes in a swamp near the school, or poison ivy growing at the edge of a ballfield.
So how are the schools handling the challenge?
Fortunately, the state and a few grassroots (no pun intended) organizations have come together to offer information on the best ways to maintain a green school lawn without using pesticides. Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection has information and a video on organic lawn care on its website. The nonprofit, Grassroots Environmental Education, is also offering six workshops across the state on organic lawn maintenance. Thus far, about 60 school turf managers have signed up for the free, daylong programs.
It will be interesting to hear how the schools fare over the next year. Live in Connecticut? Let us know how your local school (and its lawns) are handling the new law.