• Risks of Childhood Exposure to Pesticides Related to Athletic Field Maintenance Practices: A Survey of Frequency and Factors

      Gilden, Robyn Christine; Friedmann, Erika (2010)
      The US Environmental Protection Agency (2008) defines a pesticide as "any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest", whether insect, plant, fungus, rodent, or bacteria. The usual targets of many pesticides are the pests' nervous or reproductive system, although they may act in other ways in any organism, including humans. Pesticides are ubiquitous in our environment and are leading to increasing body burden (CDC, 2005). We are exposed to pesticides at home, work, and in the community through consuming food and water, breathing air, and through contact with soils or on surfaces. There are extensive data from animals and humans demonstrating that pesticide exposure causes acute and chronic health effects, including neurologic and neurodevelopmental, reproductive, endocrine, and immune system dysfunction and cancer. Most of the toxicological data related to health effects from exposure are based on studies focusing on one chemical via one route. There has been little exploration of the health effects from combinations of chemicals, different routes of exposure, and specific groups of exposed individuals that actually occur in the real world such as those represented by exposures on athletic fields. This study assessed potential exposure to pesticides based on maintenance practices on athletic fields, including use of pesticides and the factors that may be related to likelihood of usage, including field location, field ownership/oversight, and field characteristics. Randomly selected athletic fields (N=101) in the six (6) jurisdictions of Central Maryland participated, including public and private schools, colleges and universities and public fields. A survey was emailed or administered over the phone to the responsible field manager assessing ownership, field conditions, and maintenance practices, including the use and types of pesticides. Sixty-six fields (65.3%) out of 101 reported using some form of pesticides, mainly herbicides (n=58, 57.4%). Pesticide use did vary by density with urban and suburban fields being less likely to use pesticides than rural fields. Combined cultivation practices(soil testing, aerating, and over-seeding) also was a significant predictor of pesticide use. Conducting cultivation practices was associated with pesticide use. This is possibly an indication that the better monitoring and pesticide use both were related to a larger budget for or more attention to field maintenance. Results from this study can be used to support drafting model policy language. Such changes in pesticide use policy will improve health of workers, sports participants, and observers thereby reducing health care costs and missed work and school days. Findings from this study also can be used to improve education of local officials, field maintenance personnel and general public on health effects related to pesticides and non-toxic management of lawns and playing fields.