(Beyond Pesticides, September 11, 2007) In August 2007, Massachusetts State Auditor Joe DeNucci announced that while some progress has been made, 649 (24 percent) of the Commonwealth’s public and private schools and 1,881 (59 percent) of its day care centers are still not in compliance with the Children’s Protection Act of 2000, which requires them to submit a plan on pesticide use at their facilities.
The state notes improvement over its 2003 audit, which found 71 percent of schools and 90 percent of day care centers had not complied with this legislation that is intended to protect children from unnecessary exposure to pesticides. But nearly eight years after the bill was passed, environmentalists and public health advocates expect more.
“The law was passed in 2000 and we ought to be at or near full compliance by now,” Frank Gorke, director of Environment Massachusetts told the Marblehead Reporter. “I’d say we obviously need to step up enforcement and we probably need to increase resources.”
The law requires schools and child care centers to submit plans detailing the pest problem that exists at their facilities, the pesticides that they plan to apply, and who will apply the pesticides — even if they are not planning to use pesticides at the current time. The law also requires them to notify parents and employees at least two days before any pesticides are applied at these facilities. State Senator Pamela Resor, co-chair of the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture believes that schools haven’t been complying with the pesticide law because they need technical expertise.
The review disclosed that the bureau has implemented a corrective action plan to address the problem, in cooperation with the Department of Education’s Early Education Commission and the Attorney General’s Office. This plan will ensure compliance by day care centers and early education programs by withholding operating license renewals, which are required every two years, unless a current Integrated Pest Management plan has been filed with the bureau.
However, the bureau revealed that this plan does not take effect until September 30, 2008, which is the end of the next licensing cycle. The audit noted that until this plan is fully implemented, there is inadequate assurance that children in childcare settings are being properly protected against pesticides. In addition, the plan does not address the need for compliance by public and private schools, which are not covered by this licensing requirement. “The bureau should continue to improve compliance with the Children’s Protection Act and work with the Department of Education to ensure that all children in public and private schools and day care facilities are adequately protected,” advised Mr. DeNucci.
According to the Marblehead Reporter, the legislature passed the law in 2000, after MassPIRG collected 106,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative mandating the regulations. Variations of the bill had bounced around the State House for several years, but the specter of a voter-approved law spurred action.
State Representative Douglas Petersen, who authored the 2000 measure, told the newspaper that he expected better implementation of the bill, and wished he’d added language. “It didn’t seem like a necessary piece at the time, but given the history… Usually that’s an administration decision, to implement something, so it didn’t occur to me to put in an implementation plan.”
For more information on the impact of pesticides on children’s health and strategies for getting pesticides out of your child’s school, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools webpage.