Daily News Archive

Schools Receive Poor Marks on Pesticide Policy Compliance
(Beyond Pesticides, July 1, 2004)
According to a report issued by Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs), most schools in Humboldt County, in Northern California, are not complying with a state pesticide right-to-know law. The report refers to the Healthy Schools Act of 2000, which requires detailed record keeping of pesticide use, as well as notification of pesticide use to parents who request it.

The three-year study found that while 21 of 32 school districts reported using few or no pesticides, many schools' record keeping did not meet state requirements. Most schools did not include the time, date, place and reason they used chemicals to treat pests, and many did not realize that they needed to report using products like Round Up (which contains glyphosate, a potentially hazardous chemical). "If the school isn't recording and releasing those figures, how do we know what they're doing?" said Patty Clary, the group's executive director, according to the Times-Standard.

CATs gave most school districts poor or failing grades for keeping records and making them accessible to its researchers. Most schools also fared poorly at drawing up pest management plans. Only one school district received an overall A on the report. Clary said CATs is now working with some schools to help them better understand the requirements of the Healthy Schools Act.

Many schools routinely apply pesticides in classrooms, gyms, playgrounds, cafeterias and offices and most schools do not have pesticide policies. Pest management is unlikely to be a large part of a school's budget, so many administrators do not focus on it and are likely to be uniformed. Children are more sensitive to pesticides because of their physiology and behavior; children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. The particular vulnerability of children to the harmful effects of pesticides has garnered nationwide attention over the past decade.

California does not have any state laws specifically restricting school pesticide use, but the California Healthy School Act of 2000 recommends schools to adopt an IPM policy in addition to its record-keeping requirements. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a program of prevention, monitoring, and control that offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce pesticides in schools, and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products that are used. 17 states require schools to implement IPM. Find out what state laws and local policies govern your school.

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