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From July 24, 2006                                                                                                        

After Exterminator Fine School District Adopts IPM Policy
(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2006) The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) recently fined National Exterminators $4,500 for applying pesticides at Dudley Elementary School while the students were at lunch, and in response the local School Board adopted an integrated pest management (IPM) policy. On March 7, 2006, it was reported by a local newspaper that a technician from the Martinsville, Virginia company injected the insecticide malathion into a classroom wall during the school day after being hired by the school to treat ants (See Daily News).

According to the Roanoke Times, the office of pesticides at the VDACS found the technician used the pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Rhonda Bates, a VDACS spokesperson said the company has already paid the $4,500 fine.

Several parents contacted the school complaining that their children experienced headaches and other symptoms in the days following the incident. At that time, some of the parents were told that the children were exhibiting symptoms of the flu. School officials said that the absentee rates were normal on the days before and after the pesticide application, but parents removed their children from school after learning about it.

According to the Roanoke Times, the school system terminated its contract with National Exterminators, which had been in place for 18 years, following the incident. In June 2006, the Franklin County School Board approved an integrated pest management policy (IPM) for its district. Under the new policy contractors must submit a written form and receive permission from at least two school officials before they apply any pesticides. Steve Oakes, the Franklin County school system's director of facilities, said the system is currently accepting bids for a new contract. The new contract will likely be submitted to the school board for approval in August, he said.

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 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.