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Report Finds Heavy Use of Pesticides in Schools Threatens Washington Children
(Beyond Pesticides, April 30, 2004)
According to the new report by the Washington Toxics Coalition, a majority of children in Washington state attend school in districts using pesticides that could cause serious long-term health problems such as cancer and nervous system damage. The report, A Lesson in Prevention, documents pesticide use by 50 of the state’s largest school districts.

“Our children can’t succeed in school where there are poisons on the playground and chemicals in the classroom that can harm their ability to learn,” said Angela Storey, the report’s author. “School districts should eliminate the use of hazardous pesticides and replace them with safer methods.”

The report finds that:

  • 96% of Washingtons largest school districts use high hazard pesticides linked to cancer, reproductive or developmental harm, nervous system damage, or endocrine (hormone) disruption.
  • Many districts are not tracking pesticide use as required by state law.
  • Some school districts are breaking the trend, successfully reducing and eliminating the use of hazardous pesticides.

Since these districts are the states largest, these findings mean that a majority of the state’s children (67%) attend school in districts using high hazard pesticides. “It is unconscionable to me as a parent, and as a physician, that we continue to risk exposing our children to chemicals that could seriously impact their health and development,” said Dr. Liliane Bartha, a parent in the Olympia School District.

The report calls on school districts to eliminate the use of all high-hazard pesticides and adopt policies to replace pesticide use with safer alternatives. School districts should also keep full records of pesticide use and prepare the annual summary as required by the Children’s Pesticide Right-to-Know Act, which took effect in July 2002.

”We don’t need to use harmful pesticides to maintain school grounds and buildings,” said Bruce Worley, Executive Director for Facilities at the Oak Harbor School District. “Oak Harbor has ended our use of the most harmful pesticides, and is finding alternatives that work.”

The report also calls on state legislators to ban school use of the most hazardous pesticides, and to provide training and other support for schools to adopt safer alternatives.

“Six school districts in Washington have shown that they can eliminate the most harmful pesticides and still have attractive landscapes and safe buildings,” added Ms. Storey. “Our state leaders need to take action now to make the rest of Washington’s school districts safe for our kids by banning high hazard pesticides.”

Full text of the report can be found at www.watoxics.org.

TAKE ACTION: Besides Washington, 16 states require schools implement IPM. Find out what state laws and local policies govern your school. Contact Beyond Pesticides to learn how to get your school to adopt an IPM program by:

(1) Identifying the school's pest management policy;
(2) Educating yourself and evaluating the program;
(3) Organizing the school community;
(4) Working with school decision-makers; and,
(5) Becoming a watchdog and establishing an IPM Committee.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides' Children and Schools issue pages.