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Daily News Archive
From September 7, 2005

Parents Urge Schools to Start Year Without Toxic Pesticides;
Bill Introduced To Protect Children from School Pesticide Poisoning
(Beyond Pesticides, September 7, 2005)
Parents from 30 states and the District of Columbia today called on school districts across the country to start the school year without the use of toxic pesticides that have been linked to childhood diseases. Coordinated with the national public health advocacy organization Beyond Pesticides and local and state organizations, the parents are urging school districts to adopt non-toxic management strategies and end the use of pesticides that can cause cancer, neurological problems, learning disabilities, asthma and other chemical-induced illnesses. In a back-to-school call for improved protection of the nation’s school children from pesticide use, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) today announced the inroduction of the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA). The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

“I am today asking my children’s school to stop its toxic pesticide use and applauding Senator Lautenberg and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) for putting this public health issue before the U.S. Congress,” said Dawn Helm of Paramus, NJ, mother of three children ages 3 to 8.

This national back-to-school action by parents and in the Congress comes in the wake of two scientific studies released this summer that raise serious concerns about the dangers of pesticide use in the nation’s schools. One study, written by federal and state public health officials and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1), finds children are increasingly poisoned by pesticide use in schools. The authors recommend that schools adopt strategies to reduce the use of pesticides and prevent pesticide drift from farmland.

Another study on human exposure to toxic chemicals by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that residues of synthetic pyrethroid pesticides, commonly used to control insect pests, are carried in the bodies of over 50 percent of Americans. In addition to endocine disrupting effects, this class of pesticides is closely associated with respiratory illness and asthma, the leading chronic illness cause of school absenteeism among American children.

Beyond Pesticides has identified 48 commonly used pesticides in schools, of which 24 are probable or possible carcinogens, 25 are linked with reproductive effects, 33 with liver or kidney damage, 33 with neurotoxicity, and 39 are sensitizers and/or irritants.

Today, Beyond Pesticides is also releasing its latest publication, Asthma, Children and Pesticides: What you should know to protect your family, to alert the public and officials to the scientific studies linking pesticide exposure and asthma, a disease that strikes 1 in 8 school-aged children and is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness. The estimated cost, according to the CDC, of treating asthma in those younger than 18 years is $3.2 billion per year.

“It makes no sense to send children back to school with inhalers and then spray pesticides that cause respiratory problems in the school buildings and grounds,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a Washington, DC based national environmental group. “Instead, schools can protect children and save money with the adoption of non-toxic practices,” Mr. Feldman said.

“Pesticides may kill pests, but they don’t prevent pests. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) does. IPM is an educational approach that depends on proactive school management versus reactive chemical treatments. Above all, it works,” said Marc Lame, Ph.D., entomologist and professor at the Indiana University and author of the new book, A Worm in the Teacher’s Apple: Protecting America’s School Children From Pests and Pesticides. Laws in 17 states require or recommend IPM use in their schools, but many advocates are concerned that these laws do not adequately restrict hazardous pesticide use.

“Parents want to know that their children are not being exposed to pesticides when they are attending school. It’s time that we start being more precautionary instead of giving children a daily dose of chemicals as they try to live and learn,” said Michele Roberts, project director with Beyond Pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides is a member of the School Pesticide Reform Coalition (SPRC) as are the groups participating in this nationwide action. SPRC is a national network of 26 environmental health groups in 20 states that advocates for every child's and school employee's right to an environmentally healthy school. The Coalition works to protect children's and the general public's health by supporting nationwide grassroots action and focusing local, state and national attention on eliminating school pesticide use.

For more information on the parents in the states and local and state organization participating in today’s action, see http://www.beyondpesticides.org.

(1) Acute Illnesses Associated with Pesticide Exposure at Schools, (Vol. 294, No. 4, pp455-465), by Walter A. Alarcon, M.D. (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) et al., analyzes 2593 poisonings from 1998 to 2002 from three surveillance systems. While the analysis finds incident rates overall of 7.4 cases per million children and 27.3 cases per million employees, the authors conclude, “[T]hese results should be considered low estimates of the magnitude of the problem because many cases of pesticide poisoning are likely not reported to surveillance systems or poisoning control centers.”
(2) Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Centers for Disease Control, July, 2005.

TAKE ACTION: Bring a "For My Child's Health" postcard to your child's school requesting that school health staff ensure that your child is not exposed to pesticides while at school. Ask your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to support and co-sponsor the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA).