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Daily News Archive
From March 24, 2006                                                                                                        

Virginia Investigates School Pesticide Treatment
(Beyond Pesticides, March 24, 2006) The Virginia Department of Agriculture is currently conducting an investigation to see if pesticides made students at the Dudley Elementary School sick. On March 7, 2006, a technician from the National Exterminators of Martinsville applied malathion while the children were in class. National Exterminators of Martinsville was hired by the school to treat ants.

According to the Martinsville Daily News, a meeting was held at the school on Monday, March 20, 2006, for parents where school leaders explained that they asked a technician from National Exterminators to only do a consultation on March 7. Lisa Morgan, a parent of two children at Dudley said school officials told the parents that they gave no authorization for nor did they have knowledge of the pesticide use.

One parent, Amber Tringale said, “There are children with rashes on their hands and their faces and they feel very, very ill.” Some parents were told that perhaps the children were exhibiting symptoms of the flu. However, symptoms from exposure to malathion may include numbness, tingling sensations, headaches, nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, rashes, mental disorientation, abdominal cramps, sweating, incoordination, blurred vision, difficulty breathing or respiratory depression and slow heartbeat according to label directions.

According to Robert Bailey, supervisor of Enforcement and Field Operations for the Office of Pesticide Services said his investigators are checking to see if the National Exterminators is licensed, the technician is certified, and if he followed the directions. If the Department finds National Exterminators to be at fault, according to Mr. Bailey, the company could receive from a caution letter to a fine that he called “a significant civil penalty.”

In the absence of national protections or standards for children, communities are taking action to protect children from pesticide use in schools, by establishing least-toxic pest management strategies through adoption and implementation of state and local policies. Currently 33 state laws and over 400 school districts are known to have policies or programs regarding integrated pest management, pesticide bans, and right-to-know. Virginia does not have a statewide- integrated pest management policy.

For more information about school IPM programs, policies, laws and resources, see Beyond Pesticides' School and Children program page