Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2018

Majority of Iowa’s schools at risk to pesticide spray drift

By Ken Roseboro, Fairfield | Jun 14, 2018

To the editor:

A recent report from IowaWatch featured in the Des Moines Register on June 5 found that “nine of every 10 public school districts in Iowa have buildings within 2,000 feet of a farm field, making students and teachers susceptible to being exposed to pesticides that drift from the fields when pesticides are sprayed.”

Other findings from the report:

• 89.6 percent of Iowa’s 1,321 K-12 public schools are within the range of accidental spraying and spray drift.

• 444,559 Iowa students and teachers are at risk to exposure and health concerns associated with pesticide exposure.

• 18 percent of U.S. states require buffer zones between schools and farms, but Iowa isn’t one of them.

• The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported 589 agriculture-related pesticide misuse complaints from 2012 to 2017.

The Iowa Watch report also quotes Terry Basol, Iowa State Extension field agronomist, who said, “Growers work really hard to keep that [spray drift] from happening.”

This report is disturbing because children are especially vulnerable to the effects of pesticides. The report cites the National Academy of Sciences, which estimates that one-third of neurobehavioral disorders are caused directly by pesticides. In the United States, 15 percent of all children have one or more developmental disabilities.

The report cites other studies that document negative health impacts of pesticides on children. A recently published study by researchers at the University of Indiana found that women with high levels of glyphosate herbicide in their bodies are more likely to have shorter pregnancies, which can lead to children with reduced learning and brain development.

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup herbicide, is the most heavily used herbicide in the world. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer body classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, and tests have found it in many food products.

The extensive use of glyphosate has caused weeds to develop resistance to it. As a result, companies such as Monsanto and Dow have introduced genetically modified corn and soybeans that are designed to be used with dicamba and 2,4-D herbicides. Both of these herbicides are known for causing spray drift damage.

In 2017, dicamba drift damaged an estimated 3.6 million acres of farmland in the U.S. That may get worse in 2018 because the number of acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans grown in the U.S., including Iowa, is expected to double from 20 million to 40 million acres.

That means greater amounts of dicamba will be sprayed, leading to more dicamba drift damage—and with that, increasing drift threats to Iowa’s schools.

Pesticide drift to Iowa’s schools needs to be addressed. The Iowa legislature and governor should take action to require buffer zones of 2,000 feet between schools and farm fields.

If glyphosate is used to kill weeds on Fairfield’s school grounds and public places, the city should consider banning its use for less toxic alternatives, which are available.

Iowa’s future rests on its children, and the health of Iowa’s children should be protected from the toxic effects of pesticides.


- Ken Roseboro, Fairfield

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