Daily News Archive
Against H.U.D. calls for IPM in Public Housing
(Beyond Pesticides, September 13, 2004) Six
state attorneys general filed a lawsuit
on September 9 against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) over the agency's failure to reduce use of pesticides in public
housing as required by federal law.
The lawsuit was filed by Attorneys General from New York, Connecticut,
Illinois, New Mexico, Wisconsin and the US Virgin Islands. The action
seeks to reduce pesticide exposure of families who live in public housing.
Specifically, it asks the court to direct HUD to promote and use Integrated
Pest Management (IPM), a more effective method of pest control that
prevents pest problems by improving sanitary and structural conditions
in the housing stock and the use of mechanical, physical and biological
controls. These controls can include the use of screens, traps, fixing
leaking pipes and plugging holes in walls and doors.
The attorneys general noted that IPM can address pest problems in public
housing without the excessive pesticide use that leads to more serious
health concerns. By requiring an evaluation of the toxicity and exposure
potential associated with any pesticide, it assures that the alternative
used has the lowest toxicity and risk but is still effective.
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer stated, "Pesticides are
poisons that can damage people's health. There is a danger that infants
and children will be harmed as a result of pesticide exposure. It is
imperative that HUD fulfill its legal obligation to promote the use
of Integrated Pest Management to effectively control pests and improve
the quality of life and the health of millions of people who live in
On October 8, 2003, state Attorneys General petitioned HUD to require
HUD-funded public housing developments to adopt and implement IPM. (See
story). HUD denied the request in December 2003. While HUD did not dispute
the accuracy of the evidence presented in the petition, it argued that
its modest efforts to address the problem met its obligations under
In this suit, the states ask the Court to order HUD to require HUD-funded
public housing developments to implement IPM. The states also request
that the Court find that HUD's prior inaction on this matter violated
federal law. "Spraying pesticides in public housing projects is
tantamount to putting poison in baby food, because as an expectant mother
ingests the toxins in the pesticides sprayed around her public housing
home she passes those toxins to the fetus in her womb. The same is true
for a mother who is breast-feeding. The suit brought by Attorney General
Spitzer will contribute significantly to the health of families in public
housing," said NY City Council Deputy Majority Leader and Chair
of the Council's Committee on Pest Control Bill Perkins.
Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood, Pastor of St. Paul's Community Baptist
Church in Brooklyn and Chair of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation
said, "This lawsuit should embarrass the President and his HUD
secretary. While they lather rich rhetoric about leaving no children
behind, they avoid the most obvious remedy to the worst public health
threat that American children face today: exposure to triggers that
have dramatically increased asthma rates, particularly in poor communities."
"We applaud Attorney General Spitzer and his colleagues for pushing
HUD to abandon its outdated ‘spray-and-pray' approach to pest
control in favor of safer methods," said Laura Haight, Senior Environmental
Associate with the NY Public Interest Research Group. "Pilot projects
in New York City have shown that non-toxic pest control techniques are
far more effective, without the negative health consequences of exposing
children and families to chemicals that can cause childhood cancers,
learning disabilities, and asthma."
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act requires federal
agencies to: "use Integrated Pest Management techniques in carrying
out pest management activities and shall... promote Integrated Pest
Management through procurement or regulatory policies, and other activities."
Congress adopted this requirement in 1996 and IPM is being effectively
utilized by other federal agencies.
A National Academy of Sciences National Research Council study and an
October 1997 U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development report found
that pesticide exposure has different effects on the developing body
systems of infants and children than the rest of the population.
An August 2002 report by the New York Attorney General's Office, entitled
"Pest Control in Public Housing, Schools and Parks: Urban Children
at Risk," found widespread use of toxic pesticides at public housing
projects across New York State. The report outlined how the use of pesticides
could be substantially reduced without any loss of pest control effectiveness
if housing managers practiced Integrated Pest Management.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said: "HUD is solving
one problem with another problem – controlling pests, but poisoning
public property and the children and citizens who live in public housing.
There are safer and sounder affordable alternatives to these pesticides.
Prevention and Integrated Pest Management is key to reducing the use
of toxic chemicals that can make children vulnerable to brain and nervous
system injury caused by overexposure to pesticides."
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said: "There is no reason
to subject children and other residents of public housing to potentially
harmful chemicals when there are other effective ways to deal with pests.
We must use common sense and other tested, effective methods of pest
control to ensure that kids are as safe as possible no matter where
New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said: "Through the
implementation of environmentally safer methods of behavioral pest control,
and less reliance on chemical treatments, Integrated Pest Management
provides more effective and healthier methods of pest control. This
should be the method of choice for HUD public housing developments,
where infants and children may otherwise be exposed to harmful toxic
pesticides from pest control practices."
Virgin Islands Attorney General Iver Stridiron said: "As we live
in an area of tropical climate year-round, the Virgin Islands and particularly
residents of HUD-funded and operated public housing developments are
of necessity subjected to ongoing pest eradication activities. It is
therefore imperative that best practices in pest control be utilized.
Integrated pest management techniques have a greater potential to limit
our residents' exposure to toxic pesticides."
Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager said: "Environmental
justice means everyone should be able to enjoy a clean and healthy environment
regardless of their ethnic, economic or social circumstance. That is
why I am joining this action against HUD to fulfill its legal obligation
to provide children in public housing the same levels of safety from
toxic pesticides that are enjoyed by other children."
The lawsuit was filed September 9 2004 in United States District Court
for the Eastern District of New York. The case is being handled by New
York Assistant Attorneys General Lisa Feiner, Pedro Medina, and Lemuel
Srolovic and Chief Scientist Michael Surgan.
TAKE ACTION: Voice your concerns regarding this violation
of the federal law FIFRA by contacting the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development at (202) 708-1112 or though the mail at 451 7th
Street S.W., Washington, DC 20410. You can also contact your state's
HUD office to call for IPM to be used in public housing as the law