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Poisoned playgrounds

Nov 18, 2017
A study proves the presence of pesticides on children's playgrounds in South Tyrol. The provincial government has taken up a defensive posture.
Image caption:
Demands for a pesticide-free South Tyrol are growing stronger. © CIPRA Südtirol

The study, commissioned by the Association for Nature and Environmental Protection, aims to clarify the extent to which public places in the Italian province of South Tyrol are contaminated with pesticides. Children's playgrounds have since 2009 been deemed by law as sensitive areas that deserve special protection from pesticides. Grass samples taken in May 2017 – the height of the spraying season – however show that 29 of the 71 children's playgrounds examined were contaminated with one or more pesticides. The concentrations found were in part above the EU’s maximum permissible residue values for foodstuffs.

The results suggest that the regulations governing quantity and distance in South Tyrol are insufficient for the pesticides used and that people are unwittingly coming into contact with pesticides, not only in children's playgrounds but in other places too. According to Andreas Riedl, executive director of the Association for Nature and Environmental Protection as well as of CIPRA South Tyrol, the South Tyrolean provincial authorities have played down the results of the study, rather than seeing them as grounds for change. He summarises the situation thus: «The provincial authorities have reacted defensively and attempted to trivialise the issue. We are not seeking to apportion blame with this study but rather to show that solutions are required.»

South Tyrol has for years been in the headlines owing to the widespread use of pesticides in fruit-growing. The municipality of Mals received international attention around a year ago when it decided, following a citizens' initiative, to ban the use of pesticides. Equally, South Tyrolean environmental organisations have for years been trying to convince the authorities that pesticide-free farming is the only future-oriented, sustainable path to follow. This is not just a matter of the contamination of sensitive zones or the protection of biodiversity and soils. In Riedl’s view, «being pesticide-free would be a unique selling point that would distinguish us both as an agricultural and a tourist region». The urgency of such a change is illustrated by the Munich Environmental Institute with its campaign «Pesticide Tyrol». This is a reaction to the advertising, widespread in Germany, promoting South Tyrol as a tourist destination, with reworked posters of the «Tourist Land of South Tyrol» drawing attention to the use of pesticides in the province.


Sources and further information: (de, it), (de), (de), (de), (de, it), (de)