Pesticides on Campus: Delaware Students Still Frustrated

A student campaign at the University of Delaware seeks to eliminate synthetic chemical pesticides from campus grounds.

DELAWARE–(ENEWSPF)–November 13, 2012.  As students, their parents and numerous alumni continue to express alarm at the unposted pesticide spraying program on campus, the University of Delaware appears to be bending, but not breaking in its stance.

“UD Grounds Services reports that two products were used on campus this season to spot spray individual weeds: Basagran TO and Powerzone,” stated a post on the university’s web site, which defended the practice — yet declared that sprayed areas will be posted with warning signs beginning in the spring of 2013.

A review of the labels for both products raises major concerns for use in public settings. The Material Safety Data Sheet for Basagran states that application workers must wear chemically protective gloves, with eyeglasses with side-shields or chemical safety goggles. The label also requires workers to wear chemically protective boots and aprons advises against prolonged or repeated skin contact. For Powerzone, a highly toxic cocktail of four separate active ingredients including mecroprop whose synergistic effects have never been studied, the MSDS states that anyone who comes into contact with the product must take off contaminated clothing, rinse skin immediately with plenty of water for 15-20 minutes, then call a poison control center or doctor for treatment.

Many states require professionals to post properties for up to 72 hours after these products have been applied, but Delaware is one of 30 states that do not. Even as it agreed to post its own properties beginning next spring, the university was dismissive of health risks.

“According to UD’s Department of Health and Environmental Services, these chemicals are both registered for use with the Environmental Protection Agency and are commonly used in this type of setting,” stated the university on its web site. “They are recognized in the industry as safe when applied as directed, and UD’s Grounds Services personnel are trained and certified to apply herbicides — further ensuring safety of those on campus. The University’s use of these products is very limited in nature and done on a spot or as-needed basis and, thus, does not affect general use of the area.”

Several university students reportedly suffered rashes from sitting on a grassy area of campus known as The Green earlier this fall. Students say they witnessed university employees dressed in chemical protective gear spraying the grass, yet university officials dispute those sightings — stating that The Green itself was not treated.

The issue has been kept alive by several articles in the student newspaper, as well as this blog and NPR radio host Mike McGrath, who interviewed professor McKay Jenkins, a toxicology expert who authored the book What’s Gotten Into Us? Social media has also been a major thorn in the university’s side, along with a petition drive titled “Green the Green” that calls on UDelaware to divulge all the chemicals it sprays on the landscape throughout the year.

“We’ve been trying to cooperate, but it’s very, very frustrating that they won’t provide us with the full list of what’s been sprayed here,” said student journalist Kayla Iuliano, who joined fellow student Megan Mauger and Dr. Jenkins in a meeting with four university officials on Monday, Nov. 12. “They seemed to offer us a plot of land somewhere on campus to prove that organic lawn care can work, but it’s like they’re putting the onus on the students to do the work, to find a grant to fund it.”

Meanwhile, the signatures and comments continue to stack up at, where parents are joining students in pushing the university to cease the spraying and examine organic alternatives.

“No one should have to inhale poison,” wrote Roseann Atkins of Plainview, N.Y. “My daughter lives on campus and she has asthma as I am sure many other students do. Toxic chemicals make things worse for them and are not good for anyone!” 

 An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America’s leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.