Hawaii bans herbicides on school grounds

“Why I’m here today is to keep this story going and to keep the word out there about the product that I used and about how unsafe it can be for people and especially kids.”

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Hawaii is once more taking steps to protect school children from dangerous pesticide chemicals.

Early this week the Hawai’i State Board of Education (BOE) announced that they will be banning the use of herbicides on public school campuses. The ban will go into effect immediately.

The ban comes after the BOE met with community members and Dewayne “Lee” Johnson. Johnson recently became the first person to win a cancer suit against Monsanto. A jury ruled that Johnson’s no-Hodgkin lymphoma was caused by his exposure to glyphosate in Monsanto’s popular herbicide, Roundup.

“Why I’m here today is to keep this story going and to keep the word out there about the product that I used and about how unsafe it can be for people and especially kids,” said Johnson. Johnson previously worked as a school groundskeeper, during which he regularly used toxic herbicides, especially Roundup.

Over the past few weeks, several community meetings have been organized by the Hawai’i Center for Food Safety and the Protect Our Keiki coalition to hear concerns from parents, teachers, and activists about the use of herbicides and pesticides on school campuses.

“It is our hope that if we work together, agency by agency, state by state, we can help decision-makers to realize that relying on toxic chemicals to manage pests is not in anyone’s best interest,” wrote Autumn Ness, co-director of the Hawai’i Center for Food Safety, in a statement. “We can do better. We have taken experts in organic land management on tour to listen to each agency’s unique challenges and develop solutions that don’t rely on toxic chemicals.” 

During a meeting last week at Leilehua High School parents told officials that Roundup is still being used at some schools. An agriculture teacher at the school admitted she regularly sprayed it around the campus to fight weeds.

Parents asked the BOE adopt a policy prohibiting glyphosate-based herbicides on public school campuses.

“This memorandum serves as a reminder that under the Hawaii State Department of Education’s Integrated Pest Management Program, the use of all herbicides is banned on HIDOE campuses,” stated the memo sent to all superintendents and principals. “The Integrated Pest Management Program has been providing training for school custodial staff consistent with this policy for the last five years.”

Last year Hawaii became the first state in the U.S. to ban the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, a highly toxic neurotoxin that causes significant damage to brain development in children.

Currently, there are thousands of lawsuits that have been filed against Monsanto over claims that the weedkiller causes or contributes to a variety of health problems.

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