Safe playing fields bill released

TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee unanimously released a bill today to protect children from harmful chemicals on playground surfaces.

S1143, the “Safe Playing Fields Act,” would restrict the use of lawn care pesticides on the grounds of any child care center and certain schools, playgrounds, and recreational fields in the state.

Sponsor Sen. Shirley Turner said the bill would ensure children are protected from harmful effects of pesticides while providing exceptions for emergencies.

She told the panel that pesticides contribute to asthma and cancer in children.

Other supporters included the N.J. Education Association, the N.J. School Boards Association, and the Junior League.

The N.J. Child Care Association, a trade association of child care center operators, opposed the bill. Barbara DeMarco of the association said one center in West Paterson that implemented such safe playing fields practices saw an increase in bug bites and infections.

Sen. Jennifer Beck asked how many of 4,500 such centers had similar experiences, but DeMarco said they had not surveyed them. 

Beck said she recognized it is a balancing act, but she read a list of towns that declared themselves pesticide free, and said if they had had experiences similar to the one center DeMarco cited, they  wouldn’t still be avoiding pesticides.

The committee held these bills:

S2252:   This bill, which Sen. Bob Smith said has been “pre-empted” by an industry agreement before the Department of Energy, would have ordered that cable television converter boxes sold or leased by cable companies to their customers have a minimum Energy Star rating.  However, opponents to the industry agreement said it is voluntary and grandfathers in existing boxes. Smith said consumers are not being well served because of the costs being passed on to them, and the issue is not resolved.

S814: This bill, which was held, establishes a source of indemnification to commercial, industrial, and institutional building owners who install solar energy equipment on their roofs but are unable to obtain sufficient warranty coverage against damage to those roofs resulting from such installations.

The bill would have $2 million from the “Global Warming Solutions Fund”  be deposited into the warranty fund and requires the authority to make additional deposits of $500,000 each into the warranty fund as money becomes available.

Safe playing fields bill released