Law Compliance Lags North of Boston, Massachusetts
(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2005) Five years after laws were passed to protect school children from pesticides, 70 percent of day care centers and almost 30 percent of schools, including many north of Boston, Massachusetts are not complying with all or part of the law, according to the The Boston Globe. State records show public schools in Lynn, Middleton, and Saugus have not complied, while schools in Danvers, Melrose, Everett, and Amesbury are in partial compliance.
Under the Child Protection Act of 2000, schools and day care centers in Massachusetts must file ''integrated pest management" plans that detail the infestation problems they have and steps taken indoors and outdoors to control them. An earlier law imposed the same regulations on farms and restaurants. The story reported the state intends to begin writing letters and paying visits as part of a campaign to encourage educators and day care providers to take the law more seriously.
According to The Boston Globe, ''Our plan is to do some correspondence with day care centers and add enforcement personnel," said Kent Lage, assistant director of the state Department of Agricultural Resources, the agency charged with enforcing the Child Protection Act of 2000. ''The act does allow for fines," Lage added. ''But, [the enforcers] will go out in an effort to help educate and provide incentive through a variety of means. Ultimately, we need to reach out in some way to those people not in compliance." Dozens of day care centers north of Boston also have yet to comply with the law, and they are of particular concern, Lage said.
Said Lage, ''Our focus is going to be day care centers, but our effort is to try and get all schools and day care centers in compliance." Lage feels the state is pleased with recent improvements in public school compliance.
The plans filed with the state also detail school staff requirements to report pest sightings, administration requirements to keep logs accordingly, and district requirements to call in exterminators when needed. Mark Carleo, Danvers health inspector said it may sound like a lot of work, but it's worth it. ''You're talking about poisons that are coming close to our children," he said. ''There is no doubt that this needs to be done."
It took Danvers almost five years after the act was passed to start filing pest management plans for its schools. That was largely because the town's Public Works Department, which handles school maintenance, was poorly suited for the job, so it was turned over to the Health Department, according to Carleo. Danvers has yet to file outdoor pest management plans for some campuses, but those are being prepared, he said.
Danvers was not alone in filing its pest management plans late. Most communities north of Boston and throughout the state filed their first plans this year, when the state allowed them to do it via the Internet. According to The Boston Globe, the law, which went into effect November 1, 2000, gave districts and day care centers a year to file their plan. As of October 1, 2005, 72 percent were in full compliance, 18 percent were in partial compliance, and the rest were in noncompliance.
The figures were worse for day care centers, 56 percent were in noncompliance and 10 percent were in partial compliance. According to Lage, the facilities are in line for state enforcement efforts. The state estimated that dozens of day care centers north of Boston are not in compliance, but incomplete records make it difficult to determine the exact number.
The Department of Agricultural Resources has $100,000 in extra state funding this year to undertake outreach and hire new enforcement staff. The act carries a provision for $10,000-a-day penalties for noncompliance, but the state will not likely be assessing any fines, according to Lage. Instead, officials will focus on education.
Ann Nunes, president of the Massachusetts Independent Child Care Organization said for day care centers, the problem is more economics than education. Public schools are publicly funded, while day care centers are heavily regulated private businesses. Those regulations cost a lot of money, Nunes said.
The pest management plans help state health experts monitor pesticide applications in school districts and day care centers with an eye toward minimizing the poisons Massachusetts children are being exposed to, Lage said. ''That's one of the bedrocks of integrated pest management," Lage said. ''You only treat for the pests you have and no more."
If you are in Massachusetts and need to find information about the pest management plan in your school or day care center, please see the Massachusetts School IPM Program. Some day care centers may not appear on the list. For information on school IPM Programs in other states see Beyond Pesticides State and Local School Pesticide Policies.