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Terminix Cited for Repeatedly Spraying Pesticides During School

(April 14, 2003) According to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, the Georgia Department of Agriculture announced April 8, 2003 that it will cite the Forston Branch of Terminix International for improperly applying pesticides in school buildings. The incidents occurred over the last few months at several local Georgia schools including, Muscogee County public schools, Troy State University's Fort Benning campus and St. Luke United Methodist Church's Early Learning Center. Georgia state law requires that all school buildings are vacant during and for at least three hours after pesticide applications.

"These are serious and disturbing allegations that need to be addressed," said Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin. The Department of Agriculture refused to release the names of the chemicals used or dates of the applications. The Department also neglected to mention that these incidents are not uncommon in Georgia schools. As reported in the March 4, 2003 edition of the Daily News, another pest control company, Allatoona Exterminating of Cartersville was cited for multiple violations in the Cobb and Bartow county school systems. The violations included spraying in classrooms while children were present, having unregistered employees performing treatments, keeping incomplete records and failing to notify the schools regarding what pesticides were used.

Terminix corporate headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee stated that the company is initiating its own internal investigation into the allegations. The company must respond to the citation. It can choose to settle in a hearing or contest it in court. No matter how Terminix responds, John Phillips, the Muscogee schools superintendent, said, "The safety and welfare of our kids is paramount, and if they're violating that, we'll do everything we can to cancel this contract and not use their services in the future."

Children are more sensitive to pesticides because of their physiology and behavior. Situations concerning misuse of pesticides in schools put children at risk of being exposed to toxic materials, and calls into question the spraying of poisons in schools for any purpose. Many organizations promote the use of safer alternatives to traditional pest management strategies. Called IPM for Integrated Pest Management, the idea is to move away from control and toward prevention, therefore dramatically lowering the need for toxic control methods. IPM is an effective and economical alternative approach to the conventional chemical-intensive pest control program used at many schools across the country. IPM is a program of prevention, monitoring and pest control which offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce pesticides at schools, and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products that are used.

For more information on School IPM, including informative publications please contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org.