EPA Hopes to Keep Schools Pesticide-Free Through Integrated Pest Management

March 11, 2009 03:13 PM
by Shannon Firth
The EPA advocates an approach to purging American schools of pests that will reduce their use of pesticides in the process.

Cleaning Up American Schools

This year, American public schools might have to start thinking about how they control insects and other pests. In January, the Environmental Protection Agency launched a new plan called School IPM 2015 that uses Integrated Pest Management, such as proper sanitation practices, to reduce both the use of pesticides in schools and complaints about pests, by 70 percent.

The EPA hopes that all of the country’s public schools will have adopted its suggested changes by 2015. Scientific American explains, “Integrated pest management, or IPM, relies on custodians, teachers and students to manage pests by emptying trash cans daily, keeping floors clean, storing leftover food in sealed containers and minimizing pest entry points.”

In the mid-1990s, in Bloomington, Ind., a student suddenly began having respiratory problems so severe he was forced to frequently miss school. The school administration, at his mother’s prodding, investigated the problem and ultimately tied his illness to the application of pesticides in his classroom and around the school. In 1997, Monroe County, where the school resides, was the first county to rewrite its pest control policy. By relying on practices similar to those the EPA put forward in its new policy, pesticides were used only “as a last resort” and schools reduced pesticide application by 92 percent.

In 2007, Marc Lame, an entomologist and professor at the University of Indiana, told Science Daily that pesticides are being used in more than 80 percent of schools in the country. Lame explains that this is an egregious practice considering what we now know about the relationship between pesticides, asthma and other neurological problems.
According to Lame, the most common insecticides are nerve poisons, which upset hormone systems causing neurons to fire wildly, and can over time cause vomiting and serious respiratory problems. He added that while more studies are needed, insecticides may contribute to health problems such as autism, ADHD and infertility. Lame explained, “It is not just a question of children being smaller than adults and getting more exposure pound-for-pound … their nervous systems are still developing, so they are especially susceptible to nerve poisons.”

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Opinion & Analysis: Regulating pesticides

The environmental activism blog Beyond Pesticides believes integrated pest management programs should be a requirement for schools, not an option. The blog earlier this week wrote about Virginia's legislature, which recently passed a bill to create a voluntary IPM program.

According to the blog, “If the Virginia Legislature truly wanted to protect children from pests and toxic pesticide exposure, they would require schools adopt a strong IPM program, ban the use of toxic pesticides for aesthetic purposes, and prohibit the use of certain hazardous pesticides.”

In Canada, where legislation is much stricter than the United States, legislation preventing the use of pesticides by lawn care operators has angered some LCO’s. Alan White, the president of Turf Systems in Burlington, Ontario, tells Lawn & Landscape, “If all of the tools of the trade are taken out of the toolbox and the consumer is still allowed to purchase them readily at an economical cost, why would the consumer hire a professional to use an inferior product at a greater cost?”

Reference: School IPM 2015


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