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Child in playground

At present children can be playing on a sports pitch which has been sprayed with pesticides minutes earlier

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Ban pesticide-use in public parks and school grounds - campaigners

Tom Levitt

25th October, 2010

Awareness of pesticide-use in public areas used by children is low but the health dangers demand our attention

The widespread use of pesticides in public parks, gardens, sports grounds and children's playgrounds should be banned, say campaigners.

By 2012 the UK is required under new EU laws to have created a national action plan for reducing pesticides. The EU's directive also requires member states to ensure the use of pesticides is minimised or prohibited in certain specific areas.

However, campaigners say the ban should be compulsory rather than voluntary.

A recent report by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and PAN UK estimated children may be exposed to at least four potentially cancer-causing pesticides and several others with serious health impacts.

Currently, according to PAN UK, children can be playing on a sports pitch which has been sprayed with pesticides just minutes earlier.

Two countries have already taken steps to introduce such bans. Denmark has reduced pesticide-use in public areas by 80 per cent since the 1990s although golf clubs remain higher than average users having negotiated smaller reduction targets. Three cities in Belgium - Grobbendonk, Hasselt and Ghent - have banned pesticides from streets, parks and cemeteries but not yet from football pitches.

Switzerland banned the use of herbicides on roofs, balconies, roads, squares and has plans to extend this to public parks. In Canada, the province of Ontario has banned pesticide use on lawns and parks.

HEAL and PAN are now both putting pressure on other EU member states to follow suit and introduce bans or restrictions in the action plans they are required to submit to the EU Commission before 2012.

'A lot of the focus has previously been on pesticides in agriculture but we are not really talking about pesticide use in parks and schools. We want to get health groups and people who have been affected by pesticides involved in this campaign,' said HEAL policy advisor Anne Stauffer.

Useful links

The 'Sick of Pesticides' website
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) report on good practice

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