(Beyond Pesticides, October 22, 2007) Twelve North Carolina public school districts received recognition from North Carolina State University’s school IPM program for their work in reducing pest problems while cutting down on the use of chemical pesticides. State and university officials, members of the nonprofit community, and industry representatives attended the third annual School IPM Recognition Awards ceremony Oct. 10 at North Carolina State University to honor school districts who have been able to protect children from the hazards of pests and pesticides.
The awarded schools demonstrate that administrators do not have to choose between two ills, rather they can prevent students and teachers from exposure to both pests and toxic chemicals. The schools’ integrated pest management (IPM) programs emphasize cultural practices and structural repairs, including routine building inspections and maintenance, sanitation efforts and prompt repairs when slight leaks or cracks make an inviting home for unwanted guests. “The whole IPM effort is about striking while the bug is close,” State School Superintendent June Atkinson said in her keynote speech. “It’s going to take people like you to make sure our schools are safe.”
Beyond Pesticides advocates IPM for school buildings with a clear definition containing eight essential program components: education/training, monitoring, action thresholds, prevention, least-toxic tactics criteria, notification, recordkeeping, and evaluation. Proper IPM is discussed in detail in a Beyond Pesticides report, Ending Toxic Dependency: The State of IPM. Soon North Carolina public schools will have to transition from a scheduled monthly pesticide application program to an approach that involves less risky practices, as required by the passage of the Schoolchildren’s Health Act (HB 1502) last summer.
Dr. Godfrey Nalyanya, coordinator of the school IPM program at NC State University, refereed the ceremony. Nalyanya and Superintendent Atkinson presented the awards. “School districts have to apply and fill out an eight-page application,” Nalyanya said. “So they’re really serious about the program.” Three categories of awards recognize different levels of achievement for the school districts. Leadership awards go to school district representatives that not only have successful integrated pest management programs but also have assisted other schools with beginning similar programs; program awards go to schools that have transitioned to an IPM program; and initiative awards go to schools that have recently begun an IPM program.
North Carolina is one of 12 states to require school IPM programs and indicative of the increased national attention to the hazards that pesticides pose to children. Connecticut banned the application of pesticides on school grounds this summer. Studies consistently link many pesticides to adverse health effects that affect children’s respiratory system and their ability to learn. A study in Canada found that an overwhelming number of pesticide poisonings occur in children under the age of six, the World Health Organization highlights children’s increased vulnerability to chemical exposures at different periods of their growth and development, and a recent study from Drs. Theo Colborn and Lynn Carroll describes the multigenerational effects of pesticides. The body of evidence in scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels.
Ben Matthews, director of the School Support Division at the state Department of Public Instruction, said that about 54 percent of North Carolina’s school districts have transitioned away from monthly pesticide use to Integrated Pest Management. “We have some work to do, but we’re going to be here for a long time, and I think that’s great,” he said. So far, IPM has found its way onto schools’ agendas in North Carolina, but no laws have been passed governing pesticide use on public property or state-managed land.