From Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester:  Voices of the Ribbon Newsletter

By Pat Battaglia

Pesticides have been banned from use in and around schools in New York State since 2010. But many businesses, governments, health institutions, and other public facilities continue to use chemical approaches to pest control.

A recent report from the Empire State Consumer Project (ESCP) details the results of a survey of pesticide usage in a cross section of Rochester area public facilities, such as hospitals, shopping centers, and public roadways. Its findings show that some have “gone green”, but many still employ pesticides for cosmetic purposes in their landscaping. The specific chemicals that have been applied are listed (if that information has been provided).

The report also highlights potential dangers of exposures to these chemicals. Children, pregnant women, and animals have been found to be especially vulnerable to chemical toxicities, but exposures to certain chemicals carry risks for all. The known effects of the specific substances found to be in use locally include reproductive harm, nervous system damage, endocrine disruption, and birth defects, among others

Judy Braiman, leader of the ESCP, says, “Consumers, employees, and neighboring residents have no say about the pesticides they are exposed to while shopping, working, visiting, or living near these locations. Recent applications, even when posted with signs, cannot be avoided altogether. Pesticide drift caused by wind and runoff from rain extend the reach of the toxics well beyond their intended targets.”

Maintaining the safety and effectiveness of organic methods for grounds-keeping purposes, the ESCP urges that all public places can and should be maintained using non-toxic approaches.

The report concludes that “Schools have been forced to change their perspective on what constitutes beautiful grounds in favor of healthier, pesticide-free grounds for students, staff, and the public. We believe that businesses and government must follow suit as a matter of public health policy.”

The current rate of breast cancer incidence in Monroe County is over 140 per 100,000 women, compared with an average of 127.7 per 100,000 statewide.(1) Ascribing a breast cancer diagnosis to any one factor such as environmental exposures is a difficult proposition at best. Cancers may appear from five to forty years after exposure to a causative agent.(2) However, the known health risks of certain pesticides make it prudent to employ the precautionary principle and work to limit exposures to questionable substances for the health of all, especially the more susceptible and defenseless among us.

To read the report in its entirety, follow this link: