Bill To Protect Children From Toxic Pesticides Dies
(Beyond Pesticides, July 11, 2003) A bill to sharply cut toxic pesticide use in California schools died Tuesday, July 1 when the CA Senate Agriculture and Water Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Machado, D-Stockton, shelved AB1006. Assembly had already passed the bill, which was introduced by Assembly Member Judy Chu, by a vote of 42-28. "I'm very disappointed because I thought this bill would improve the health and safety of children throughout the state," said Chu after the July 1 vote.
AB1006 prohibits use of the "most highly toxic pesticides" in schools, including pyrethoids, neurotoxic organophosphorus compounds, n-methyl-carbamate, or other chemicals classified by the state or federal government as potential causes of cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm or developmental harm. It exempts pesticides contained in baits or traps; gels or pastes used as crack or crevice treatments; antimicrobial pesticides, such as bathroom cleansers; and any products used in vocational agricultural education programs.
The measure could affect a sizable niche of the pesticide market, encompassing about 1,000 school districts serving 6 million students.
The pesticide industry, a strong opponent of AB1006, claimed the proposal would weaken pest management in schools, posing a threat to students by exposing them to disease carrying pests such as rats. However, pesticide use is unnecessary because safer alternatives, such as cultural, biological and structural strategies, can successfully control pest problems. Additionally, conventional pest control tends to ignore the causes of pest infestations and instead rely on routine, scheduled pesticide applications. These are often temporary fixes, ineffective over the long term, since most common pests are now resistant to many insecticides. For effective pest control, it is absolutely necessary to identify the source of the problem, determine why the pest is present and modify its habitat. For example, since weeds tend to like soils that are compacted, the solution is not the temporary control achieved by killing them, but the adoption of practical strategies to make the soil less attractive to the weeds.
AB1006 critics also
claim school pesticide applications are nothing to worry about since
pesticides undergo testing by government agencies, and they are applied
at night when students and staff are not present. Firstly, EPA states
that no pesticide is considered "safe," despite testing. Furthermore,
pesticides present a risk no matter what time they are applied. Residues
can linger for hours, days and even months after an application is made.
It all depends on the type of chemical applied and the conditions that
may apply to its degradation. For example, airborne concentrations of
seven insecticides were tested three days following their application
in separate rooms. Six of the seven pesticides left residues behind
through the third day. A 1998 study found that Dursban (chlorpyrifos)
accumulated on furniture, toys and other absorbent surfaces up to two
weeks after application.
A statewide poll of California's 15 largest school districts last year by Californians for Pesticide Reform, a coalition of groups supporting the bill, found that more than two of every three districts surveyed planned to use pesticides targeted by the AB1006. This is especially alarming considering the increased risk that children face from pesticides. 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.
To find out your school district's pesticide policy, see Beyond Pesticides' listing and explanation of state and local school policies. For resources on how to improve your school's pesticide policy, check out Beyond Pesticides School Program Page.