Speaks Out on Reading, Writing & Human Experimentation
(Beyond Pesticides, July 26, 2005) The following is a special perspective brought to you by Brandon Stirling Baker, a 17-year-old student from Los Angeles, on the need to get pesticides out of schools.
The 14th Amendment of our Constitution says that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. I'm 17 years old, and I'd like to live way past 18.
Too many kids have cancer and asthma and lots of learning problems and kids need to be protected from anything that might make health and learning problems worse. Our constitution seems to agree, because if they didn't want kids to be protected our founding fathers would have said that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law except kids. And it doesn't say that.
California law today allows pesticides that have not received full health, stability and efficacy tests to be used on school campuses. These products that are not fully registered are known as "experimental" or "conditionally registered" products. The fact that K-12 public schools are being targeted to test experimental or conditional use pesticide products is downright creepy.
To close this dangerous loophole, Assemblywoman Montanez (D) has written a bill called AB405. The sponsors are California Safe Schools, a children's environmental health coalition dedicated to protecting kids from environmental toxins. Keep in mind, the law requires that kids attend K-12 public schools, so it's not like we have a choice about what we have to sit through during the school days. The bill, which has been approved by the Assembly, was created to protect kids, and prevent K-12 public schools from being used as test sites for experimental chemicals.
To understand why this bill is important, here's what's missing on some products that they can now legally use in schools. It's not Halloween but hang on because this is scary:
EFFICACY TESTING. This has to do with how well a product kills pests. So, if you're a school district buying products, the last thing you want is to buy something that may or may not work, or use any product around schools where the chemical manufacturer never bothered to complete safety testing.
STABILITY TESTING. For those who weren't lucky enough to have a great science teacher like Ms. Macion like I did, and may not have learned about stability tests, they tell you about a chemical's storage ability. Some chemical interact with other chemicals and can become more dangerous the longer they are stored, and some others don't work if you store them too long. Even worse, an unqualified person multi mixing chemicals could end up causing an explosion or a release of chemicals in your school that if they don't kill you make you sick.
Kids are lucky at Los Angeles Unified, which is the largest school district in the state and the second largest in the country, because the district doesn't allow experimental pesticide products, and it has a smart program called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) that requires low-risk methods for killing pests and weeds. But hey, what about other school districts? When teachers and students visit, are they being used as lab rats? Without AB 405, it sure seems like it.
Anyway you look at it, K-12 public school kids, teachers and school workers can be used as lab experiments, without our knowledge. In the words of one of my favorite actors, Wallace Shawn as Vizzini in Princess Bride, it's "inconceivable!"
TAKE ACTION: Kids have opinions and views too. Work with children in local schools to support the introduction of similar bills in your area and to help protect children from the toxic effects of pesticides and get our society off the pesticide treadmill. For more information, contact Beyond Pesticides. For more information and resources on how to get your school to adopt an IPM program, see Beyond Pesticides' Children and Schools issue pages.