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New Zealand sports grounds getting toxic treatment

2 October 2008
New Zealand sports grounds getting toxic treatment

The Green Party says children are being needlessly put at risk by 18 councils around New Zealand that are spraying playing fields with a highly toxic insecticide, banned in more than 50 countries, when a safer alternative is readily available.

A Green Party survey of New Zealand's 85 regional, district and city councils - published today along with the Greens' toxics policy - reveals that 18 councils around the country have sprayed sports grounds with Endosulfan in the past year.

"To my knowledge New Zealand is the only country in the world that sprays Endosulfan on sports fields. Endosulfan can remain in the soil for up to six years and any skin, mouth or hand contact with the soil could cause harm," Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Endosulfan is a highly toxic insecticide which affects people's hormonal system, and is linked to breast cancer, endometriosis, male breast enlargement and delayed sexual maturity. It can cause birth defects, and is linked to epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy, lowered IQ, and Parkinson's disease.

"The councils are using Endosulfan to kill earthworms. Worm casts allegedly cause balls to bounce and reduce the effectiveness of drainage under playing fields," Ms Kedgley says.

"But there is absolutely no need for children to be put at risk by the use of this toxic chemical, when the problem can be safely treated by simply altering the ph of the soil with acidifying fertilisers, and creating an environment the earthworms don't like. It is completely unnecessary - Auckland City Council stopped using Endosulfan in the mid 1990s as a result of community pressure and they have managed without it for more than a decade."

The Green Party is calling for an end to the use of Endosulfan in New Zealand as part of its toxics policy, released today.

"We want to see the precautionary principle applied to the use of highly toxic substances, and a requirement that the least toxic methods be used to manage weeds, pest and diseases. We want hazardous substances that are persistent, accumulative, highly toxic and carcinogenic to be banned, if safer practical alternatives exist. Endosulfan is all of those things and there are much safer alternatives that are demonstrably practical."

The Greens' toxics policy will also tackle the age-old unresolved issue of spray drift head on, preventing aerial spraying except when it is the safest, least toxic, effective, method of achieving the desired outcome. The Greens want right to know legislation so that the public are entitled to know the full ingredients list of chemicals or sprays they are exposed to.

Note: A full list of the 18 councils and a summary of the toxics policy are attached

ENDS

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Endosulfan_table.doc

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Highlights of the Green party toxics policy released today.

Right to Know
Pass right to know legislation so that the public know the full ingredients list of chemicals or sprays they are exposed to.

Require full content labelling of cosmetics, personal care products, household products, fertilisers and pesticides, including inert ingredients.

Levy on Toxic Chemicals
Require a levy on toxic chemicals in proportion to their toxicity and their persistence, beginning with pesticides, with revenue used to develop and implement safer alternatives and for remediation of orphan contaminated sites.

Ensure that those who use toxic chemicals take financial liability for adverse effects resulting from that use that could have been reasonably avoided, such as caused by pesticide spray drift/chemical trespass.

Phase out Hazardous substances
Phase out all existing hazardous substances that are persistent, accumulative, highly toxic, carcinogenic, reproductive or neurological toxicants and/or endocrine disruptors, if safer practical alternatives exist – for example endosulfan – and fund research into alternatives where they are not available.

Assessments and exposure limits for all toxic chemicals in food to be set on the basis of unborn foetus and newborn children, not adult males.

Aerial Spraying
Legislate to make agrichemical trespass beyond the boundaries of the property on which they are used illegal.

Prohibit aerial spraying except when it is the safest, least toxic, effective method of achieving the desired outcome.

Compensation for people affected by toxic chemicals
Improve access to compensation for people affected by toxic substances, including improved medical recognition of symptoms of chemical poisoning especially those of ongoing low dose exposure to mixtures of chemicals.

Ensure improved training of medical personnel in the recognition and treatment of effects of toxic chemicals, including increased training in occupational health in medical schools, and regular courses for those in practice.

The Green party’s toxics policy is based on the precautionary principle (when there is reasonable evidence that a substance causes harm to human health or the environment, then precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically) and the principle of minimum harm (using the least harmful products or methods to achieve the necessary outcome.)

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