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Pesticides on Back-to-School Agenda

asthma postcard(Beyond Pesticides, September 6, 2007) As children head back to school, Beyond Pesticides urges parents and school staff to ask school administrators to adopt non-chemical practices that protect children from pests and pesticides. Studies consistently link many pesticides to adverse health effects that affect children’s respiratory system and their ability to learn. See Beyond Pesticides’ website for documentation on adverse effects of pesticides and children’s health. Parents are urged to bring the “For my child’s health please do not spray pesticides in school” postcard to the school nurse with other health information and medicine, such as inhalers. Postcards are available from Beyond Pesticides or on the Beyond Pesticides website. The back-to-school season and talk of pesticide use brings with it debate on appropriate integrated pest management (IPM) practices. Because of a lack of an agreed upon definition, IPM is often promoted with a lack of clarity and an unnecessary reliance on toxic chemicals, according to health and safety advocates.

Beyond Pesticides advocates IPM for school buildings with a clear definition containing eight essential program components: education/training, monitoring, action thresholds, prevention, least-toxic tactics criteria, notification, recordkeeping, and evaluation. Proper IPM is discussed in detail in a Beyond Pesticides report, Ending Toxic Dependency: The State of IPM. At the same time, Beyond Pesticides advocates organic practices on outdoor landscapes and playing fields.While the trend is moving toward the adoption of organic and clearly defined management practices, some in the pest control industry publish positions that suggest that parents must choose between pests and pesticides. The executive director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association (NJPMA), in a September 4, 2007 press release, asks, “Which would you prefer. . .[a] school free of the many insect and rodent pests that can spread disease or one in which fears of pesticides exceed having a safe learning environment?” “It is ironic and unnecessary to pit the pest management industry against health and safety advocates when both can work together to achieve a safe learning environment without hazardous pesticides,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. Data shows that schools can be managed to protect children from pests through maintenance practices and structural repairs and, in some cases, least-toxic pesticides as a last resort.

Despite the NJPMA rhetoric, the state of New Jersey is one of 12 states that require school IPM practices. The state has a model IPM policy and requires preferred “low-impact” pesticides to be used after non-chemical practices are adopted and before more toxic chemicals. The model language states: “Each school shall consider the full range of management options, including no action at all. Non-pesticide pest management methods are to be used whenever possible. The choice of using a pesticide shall be based on a review of all other available options and a determination that these options are not effective or not reasonable. When it is determined that a pesticide must be used, low-impact pesticides and methods are preferred and shall be considered for use first.”

Low-impact pesticides are defined as: “Certain formulation types: any gel, paste, or bait; antimicrobial agents such as a disinfectant used as a cleaning product; specific active ingredients: boric acid; disodium octoborate tetrahydrate; silica gels and diatomaceous earth; microbe-based insecticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis; botanical insecticides, not including synthetic pyrethroids, without toxic synergists; biological, living control agents; and EPA FIFRA-exempt active ingredients and/or inerts.”

“While the definition of low-impact needs greater scrutiny because gels, paste or baits may contain volatile chemicals that contaminate indoor ambient air, the New Jersey approach seeks to eliminate where possible hazardous pesticides. However, to ensure effective implementation, this policy requires strict parental and school staff oversight,” said Mr. Feldman.

For more information on the adoption of school policies that are protective of children in the new school years, see Beyond Pesticides’ website or contact the organization at 202-543-5450.


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