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Students Exposed to Pesticides
(Beyond Pesticides, May 4, 2004)
Fifteen high-school students in Bronx, NY were treated on April 20 after exposure to a cloud of herbicide that parks employees were spraying on grass nearby, according to New York Newsday. Fire department officials say the pesticide drifted through a window into a room the students were occupying. Most of the students were treated on the scene, however one was taken to Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center due to difficulty breathing and nausea.

Parks Department spokeswoman Megan Sheekey stated the incident was accidental, and that a parks crew was spraying the chemical on grass 200 feet away from the center, which was evacuated.

Pesticides commonly drift due to weather conditions, and can be exacerbated by such factors as the type of sprayer, and the pesticide droplet size. Beyond Pesticides has documented several other incidents of pesticide drift in schools. For example, in Litchfield, Illinois, a pesticide drift incident occurred at the Litchfield Middle School by a negligent pesticide applicator, causing 100 students, teachers and parents to become sick in May 1998. Two children required hospital attention. On November 8, 2000, students, staff and parents arriving at Mound School in Ventura, CA, were exposed to Lorsban 4ETM (chlorpyrifos), which had drifted from the lemon orchard across the street from the school onto school property. Almost 40 individuals on-site during the initial drift incident reported symptoms ranging from dizziness, blurry vision, nausea, chest tightness, and, in some children, on-going diarrhea. Two children were sent home because of symptoms of pesticide exposure. To read more about these and other school pesticide exposures, see School Pesticide Incidents from Around the Country: A Selection of Student and School Staff Poisonings.

Such exposures are alarming, since children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Allowing for this type of accident to happen is unnecessary, since there are safer alternatives to the herbicide use that caused the Bronx students to become ill, even for such large-scale areas as public parks and school athletic fields. An integrated pest management system of proper watering and mowing, aeration, dethatching and maintaining proper pH allows for healthy grounds that are naturally pest resistant. Contact Beyond Pesticides for more information.

TAKE ACTION: Find out what state laws and local policies govern your school. Contact Beyond Pesticides to learn how to get your school to adopt an IPM program by:

(1) Identifying the school's pest management policy;
(2) Educating yourself and evaluating the program;
(3) Organizing the school community;
(4) Working with school decision-makers; and,
(5) Becoming a watchdog and establishing an IPM Committee.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides' Children and Schools issue pages.