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Report: Over 600 Ohio elementary schools are near farm pesticide spray zones

Brad Hunter plants corn into a stand of cover crop on his farm in Porter County, Indiana.
Jacob Tosch, Porter County SWCD
Brad Hunter plants corn into a stand of cover crop on his farm in Porter County, Indiana.

Ohio has over 600 schools located a quarter mile from a farm that might spray pesticides, according to an analysis published by a national environmental group. The nonprofit says some members of Congress want to block state and local safeguards from spraying risks.

According to a recent report from the Environmental Working Group, 80 Ohio elementary schools out of 4,028 nationwide, are within 200 feet of a crop field. An additional 600 are within a quarter mile from a farm spraying pesticides.

The report details pesticides can drift miles away from the intended target; posing health risks to children in schools. The analysis does not mention school locations near farm fields with cases of children reporting being sick because of pesticide use.

Several states, Ohio included, have regulations on how, when and where to apply those chemicals. In Ohio, for example, farmers applying restricted use pesticides during school hours must post signs around the fields before spraying. Schools also need to establish a parent registry with advance written notice of application.

Scott Faber, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at EWG, said however, some policymakers are trying to limit the power states have to enforce pesticide use safeguards.

“Some members of Congress are seeking to block or preempt these state and local laws,” Faber said. “They're putting the profits of pesticide companies like Bayes Monsanto and pesticide applicators ahead of the risks posed to our kids.”

Ty Higgins from The Ohio Farm Bureau said the report is an attack on farmers. He emphasizes advancements in farm equipment technology that allow for more precise chemical application with reduced usage.

“They've done this for the livestock industry. They've done this for row crop farmers. They've done it for every sector of agriculture,” Higgins said. “And we have a farm bill that's being worked on right now that we hope to get passed by the end of the year. And they want to change the way farmers do their job using rhetoric instead of science.”

EWG is asking Congress to oppose preemption laws and strengthen the U.S. EPA federal rules surrounding pesticide use.

“Preemption takes decision making out of the hands of those most impacted by pesticide use," a letter endorsed by EWG read. “States and localities are often in a much better position than the EPA to quickly assess risks, consider emerging evidence, and to make decisions to protect their unique local environments,”

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming

Email: afigueroa@wyso.org
Phone: 937-917-5943