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Daily News Archive
From November 21, 2005                                                                                                           

New York Schools Still Using Pesticides, Report Says
(Beyond Pesticides, November 21, 2005)
A new survey by Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides (RAMP) found that some local school districts are still using pesticides. Pesticides have been linked to cancers, asthma and a range of other health problems, but only about a quarter of local schools avoid using the chemicals, according to the report. The group studied 20 area school districts and found that only 6 have discontinued the use pesticides.

“Twenty years ago, everyone was using pesticides, inside and outside," said Judy Braiman, RAMP spokeswoman, who has led the periodic surveys since they began in 1987. "Now, with what we know about pesticides ... I'm surprised so many are still using (these chemicals)."

Four districts and three schools reported using no pesticides whatsoever. Some schools have reduced their pesticide use, but myriad chemicals, which have been shown in laboratory tests to pose health risks, are still used unnecessarily near where children learn and play, Ms. Braiman said.

By law, New York schools are only encouraged to reduce their pesticide use. In several other states, public schools are barred from using pesticides unless they use integrated pest management, which focuses on taking preventive measures and applying chemicals only as a last resort. For the past five years, schools in New York have been required to inform interested parents of their pesticide procedures when each school year begins, and to post notice of pesticide applications.

“Right now 40 percent of the 42 hundred schools in the New York State have indoor air that's polluted, and that's not only with pesticides, but also with cleaning products,” said Ms. Braiman. Starting this fall, New York schools are also required to use environmentally sensitive cleaning products. (See Daily News 8/25/05) A third of schools surveyed by RAMP over the summer reported that they already complied with the new law.

In Penfield, mousetraps, caulking and manual weed pulling take the place of pesticides, said James Cordaro, director of buildings and grounds. The district has followed an IPM policy to keep pests out of the buildings since the early 1990s. Pesticides are used only when a wasp's nest or some other problem poses an "imminent danger" to staff or students," he said. After the community adjusted to a dandelion-dotted lawn, the effort was well-accepted, Mr. Cordaro said.

Ms. Braiman said she would love to see other local schools follow his lead. "They've shown that it can be done," she said. "No one needs to use these pesticides."

TAKE ACTION: 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.

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