Online Program

Chemical pesticide use in community gardens in the Boston area

Monday, November 4, 2013

Catriona Wilkey, MSW, Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Wendy J. Heiger-Bernays, PhD, School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Background: Numerous studies point to the relationship of acute adverse health effects and the use of chemical pesticides in agricultural settings. However, few studies explore the use of chemical pesticides in backyard or community garden settings. This study characterizes use of chemical pesticides in urban community gardens, many of which are located in environmental justice communities, in Boston, Massachusetts. Methods: Data are presented from a sample of greater than 25 community garden organizers representing nearly 200 Boston-area community and school gardens. Using an original survey tool, semi-quantitative data characterize frequency and amount of pesticide-use, defined as use of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers at the garden site. In-depth data were gathered from a sub-sample of gardeners from sites with higher reported pesticide-use to determine source, intended use, and perceived knowledge on pesticide-use. Results: Regular pesticide use was observed in several community gardens. Self-reports of over-use, inappropriate use, and improper disposal were present in the data. Higher use of pesticides was reported by gardeners at sites in environmental justice communities and where English is not the primary language. Conclusion: Preliminary findings suggest that pesticide-use in community gardens is a growing environmental public health concern. There is a dearth of educational material available to participants of urban community gardens. The growing reliance on urban community gardens for sustenance highlights the need for more research and discussion on risks and benefits of non-organic local gardening and safe use of pesticides. Results are applicable to local or global communities engaged in urban gardening.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Environmental health sciences
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Describe and characterize the frequency and amount of herbicide, insecticide, fungicide, and chemical fertilizer use in urban school or community gardens. Discuss the risks and benefits of non-organic local gardening and safe use of pesticides. Explain the role of educational materials on pesticide-use for participants of community gardens, especially those located in environmental justice communities.

Keyword(s): Pesticides, Community

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a masters-level student at the Boston University School of Public Health in the Environmental Health Department. I currently do research on pesticides in community gardens. I hold a Master in Social Work and I am also a Research Assistant at the Boston University School of Social Work Center for Addictions Research and Services and have authored several publications and worked on numerous federally funded quantitative studies.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.