(Beyond Pesticides, August 14, 2012) Officials have recently discovered that the Northhampton School district in Massachusetts has been applying an herbicide on the school grounds that is not listed on any of the schools’ integrated pest management (IPM) plans. The herbicide Lesco (active ingredient glyphosate) has been applied up to five times a year at a single school, but typically areas were treated once a year at each school. When questioned, Northampton’s director of custodial services, Michael Diemand, said that since the product, Lesco Prosecutor, can be bought by anyone at stores, it did not need to be on the plans; however this is not what the law states.
Under a 2000 state Act Protecting Children and Families from Harmful Pesticides, schools and child care centers are required to submit plans detailing the pest problem that exists at their facilities, the pesticides that they plan to apply, and who will apply the pesticides — even if they are not planning to use pesticides at the current time. The law also requires them to notify parents and employees at least two days before any pesticides are applied at these facilities. Pesticide use is prohibited when children present. Outdoor, pesticides that are known, likely or probable carcinogens, contain a “List I” inert ingredient or for aesthetic reason alone are also prohibited from use.
Although the law was passed 12 years ago, inspectors have yet to visit every school in the state. It is not known how many schools are still to be checked, but according to Mr. Diemand, pesticide inspectors have not yet looked into Northhampton schools. Back in 2007, state auditors found that many of the schools throughout the state of Massachusetts were not in compliance with the state law. A corrective action plan to address the problem was supposed to take effect in September 2008 to ensure that children in childcare settings are properly protected against pesticides. However, the plan did not address the need for compliance by public and private schools.
The active ingredient in Lesco is glyphosate, a general herbicide used for eradication of broadleaf weeds. It has been linked to a number of serious human health effects, including increased cancer risk and neurotoxicity as well as eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. One of the inert ingredients in product formulations of Roundup, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), kills human embryonic cells. It is also of particular concern due to its toxicity to aquatic species as well as instances of serious human health effects from acute exposure.
In 2009, Beyond Pesticides, submitted comments to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) showing new and emerging science which illustrates that glyphosate and its formulated products pose unreasonable risk to human and environmental health, and as such should not be considered eligible for continued registration.
Some of the most widespread uses of glyphosate that have been attracting public attention include its use in invasive weed management and home gardening. The increase of glyphosate use in these areas is directly tied to the larger problem of poor land management, including over grazing, over development, soil compaction and other stressors. Glyphosate has replaced ecologically sound and sustainable cultural practices such as green-mulching and preventive maintenance such as aeration and dethatching.
According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton is the only school district in Hampshire County that has pesticides listed on all of its IPM plans. Most other school districts have adopted no-pesticide policies, but there are a few schools in the county that do allow the use of toxic pesticides in an emergency, including for wasp nests or poison ivy. Those school districts include: Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington, Belchertown High School, Hopkins Academy in Hadley and South Hadley High School.
Children are especially sensitive and vulnerable to pesticides because of their rapid development and behavior patterns. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes, and mental disorientation, may appear even if a pesticide is applied according to label directions. Pesticide exposure can have long-term adverse effects, including damage to a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system and increased asthma symptoms. Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ fact sheet, “Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.”
Exposure to toxic pesticides and other chemicals while children are at school is an unacceptable and completely unnecessary risk. This incident should not have happened and supports the need for a national policy to protect every child in the United States. Most recently introduced in the last Congress, federal legislation sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt, the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA), would protect school children from pesticides used both indoors and on all school grounds nationwide. To learn more about this legislation, see Beyond Pesticides’ SEPA webpage.
Source: Daily Hampshire Gazette
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.