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Maryland Schools and Ag Dept Not Complying with State Pesticide Law
(Beyond Pesticides, October 5, 2004)
A significant number of Maryland schools and the state Department of Agriculture (MDA) are failing to implement a state law designed to minimize the use of pesticides in and around public schools – leaving students, staff and others at greater risk of suffering from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals, according to first-of-their kind reports released by the Maryland Pesticide Network (MPN).

The state’s Integrated-Pest Management-in-Schools (IPM) Law went into effect in September 2000. Its intent was to eliminate or significantly minimize the use of chemical pesticides that can be harmful to humans in and around Maryland public schools. The law also provides notification to parents/guardians and employees about pesticide use in their schools. Children and pregnant women – both prominent on school campuses – are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides.

A two-year MPN survey assessed the law’s implementation by querying school district pest control managers, teachers and Parent-Teacher Association presidents. A second MPN effort reviewed MDA’s published guidelines for schools on implementing the law. MPN’s major findings include:

  • The majority of school districts are failing to implement the law fully and successfully. They are failing to follow mandated procedures for using toxic pesticides and are failing to provide mandated notification.
  • MDA guidelines, meant to help schools implement the law, are instead a major detriment to implementation because of the degree to which they misrepresent the law. Thus, even school districts that follow the MDA guidelines are in non-compliance with the law.
  • MDA has declined to correct the guidelines, despite being advised to do so by the Maryland Attorney General’s office.

Details and copies of the MPN Reports Are We Passing the Grade? - Assessing MD Schools Compliance with IPM-In-Schools Law, and Are We Passing the Grade? - Maryland Department of Agriculture’s failure to comply with the Integrated Pest Management-in-Schools Law are available to download in PDF from Maryland Pesticide Network’s website www.mdpestnet.org.

”Maryland’s lawmakers promulgated the IPM- In-Schools law to protect children. This protection can only occur if MDA properly instructs schools about how to proceed, and schools diligently implement the law,” said Ruth Berlin, MPN executive director. “MDA and those school districts not properly implementing the law are jeopardizing the health of students, parents, employees and others who spend time on school campuses.”

“There is increasing alarm in the medical community over the relationship of pesticide exposures to asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and certain cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We need to absolutely ensure this law is fully implemented in order to protect school occupants from toxic exposures that may be the cause of such diseases,” said Johns Hopkins oncologist Dr. Richard Lord Humphrey.

“Lack of compliance with notification of pesticide use as outlined in the survey report highlights an important concern for nurses who work with children and their families in our schools and in our communities and are themselves parents of school children. Nurses need to be able to assess possible pesticide injury, now a mandatory reportable illness to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene,” said Jo Ann Schropp, R.N., M.S.N., representing the Maryland Nurses Association.

Another speaker, Alan Cohen, MPN’s Urban IPM Advisor and president of Bio-Logical Pest Management Inc. said, “My company’s mantra is ‘we won’t bug you with hazardous chemicals.’ Excellent results can be achieved without synthetic chemicals. Schools around the country have proven that a non-chemical IPM program can be successful.”
MPN is a coalition of 25 Maryland health, consumer, environmental, labor, and religious organizations concerned with the impact of pesticides on health and the environment. Coalition members include the American Academy of Pediatrics (Maryland Chapter), Maryland State Teachers Association, Maryland Nurses Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, AFL-CIO (Maryland chapter), Maryland Organic Food and Farmers Association, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (Maryland chapter), MaryPIRG and the American Lung Association of Maryland.

MPN was instrumental in the passage of the 1998 and 1999 nationally groundbreaking legislation mandating an IPM program for all Maryland public schools.

The law mandates that “pesticides are only to be considered as an option when non-toxic options are unreasonable or have been exhausted, in order to a) minimize the use of pesticides and b) minimize the risk to human health and the environment associated with pesticide applications.” The law requires universal notification of pesticide applications to elementary school children’s parents/guardians and to employees, and notification of middle and high school student’s parents/guardians and employees who sign up for notification at the beginning of the school year.

TAKE ACTION: If your school already has an IPM program in place or other laws regarding pesticide use or right-to-know, find out if they are complying. Work with your school to see what is being done and what still needs to get done. Or, if your school does not already have a program in place, 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