Nature Nut: What are they spraying? Don’t be afraid to ask

August 19, 2018

Roundup, banned in many countries as carcinogenic, is readily available in the United States, including at Rochester-area retailers.

I was driving from my home along the Jefferson School boulevard earlier this summer when I noted a worker spraying around the trees and on the sidewalk.

I kept going but then thought, “If not me, then who” will ask the simple question, “What are you doing?”

So I circled around the block, pulled over and politely asked the young man with a school district four-wheeler what chemical he was spraying.

He thought for a moment and said it was a “generic version of Roundup.”

I asked him why he was spraying the sidewalk cracks, which had small amounts of less than one-inch high vegetation growing in them. He thought a little longer this time before saying, “They make snow plowing difficult.”

Two years ago, when my grandson started elementary school, it was brought to my attention the school district did a lot of chemical spraying, both inside and outside of school buildings.

I met with district officials and felt as if they would be making some changes to reduce or eliminate some of their spraying activities after I did.

Thus, I was surprised to see them still spraying Roundup around trees and on sidewalks in areas where children play, especially since it is now banned, restricted or proposed to be banned in many countries. So I contacted my former teaching colleague, and now school board chairwoman, Jean Marvin with my concerns. I got an immediate email back from her indicating she “thought we had addressed and resolved this last summer.”

She also said she would check into it further and get back to me.

It had been more than a couple weeks without hearing from Marvin, so I thought I would send her an email earlier this week to see if she had learned anything about current district spraying policies. Oddly enough, on that same day, before I sent that email to her, the news discussed a $289 million settlement awarded to a man who believed he got non-Hodgkin lymphoma from years of spraying Roundup for a California school district. An email from Marvin that same day indicated, “The district has discontinued spraying schoolyards pending getting additional feedback and research.”

If I had not gotten the responses I did from Marvin, I was considering attending the open comment period at an upcoming school board meeting. There, I would put 10 drops of Roundup in a clear, liter bottle. Then I would then begin diluting it with water from another bottle and ask board members and administrators to raise their hands when they would be willing to drink that mixture.

I am guessing I would see no hands up, but yet they have been willing to authorize putting this same chemical on school grounds and elsewhere in the buildings where children are supposed to be provided a “safe learning environment.”

I am bothered by all the chemicals we release into the environment, many of which have harmful effects on our health and the health of our children and grandchildren. But I think I am equally concerned by parents and other grandparents who will not ask this not-so-hard question: “What and why are schools spraying in schools and on school grounds where my children or grandchildren learn and play?”

Many parents go to great lengths to protect their children, but few seem to feel these chemicals pose a threat. So as school starts for thousands of Rochester and surrounding area children, I encourage parents, and even grandparents, to ask your school officials some hard questions about what the children are being exposed to. If you get the names of some of the chemicals being used and look them up online, I am sure you will be alarmed at all the warnings they carry or by the fact no one can guarantee there will not be any long-term effects on our children from their use.

And for those of you who regularly have exterminators come to your homes, ask them the same questions.

Silver Lake Friends meeting

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Silver Lake Friends group will meet at the East pavilion.

Anyone interested in making Silver Lake a better park is encouraged to attend this one-hour meeting.Greg Munson is a volunteer naturalist and freelance writer. If you have questions, comments or column ideas, contact Munson at naturenutgm@gmail.com.

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