You Can Do
New Law Empowers Parents
Information is power,
and beginning with the school year that commenced September 2001,
parents across New York will be empowered by obtaining information
about pesticide spraying taking place at the school their children
attend. Due to the section of the new 48-Hour Neighbor Notice
of Pesticide Spraying Law that applies to schools (NYS Laws of
2000, Chapter 285, Section 6), schools will provide parents with
notices three times each year which will inform them about pesticides
applications throughout the year. One notice each will be sent
within two days of the winter and spring recesses, and one within
ten days of the end of the school year. Parents should receive
a letter early in the school year informing them that they will
receive these three notices, and also informing them that they
can be put on a registry to receive 48 hour prior notice before
pesticides are sprayed. Once parents receive these notices, they
can use it to urge schools to adopt toxics-free maintenance programs.
Pesticides are frequently
sprayed in school cafeterias to kill insects, and on athletic
fields to kill weeds. All pesticides are poisons and therefore
cannot be advertised as "safe" because of the health
and environmental risks presented by their use. Many pesticides
are nerve toxins and some are suspected of being carcinogens.
The good news is that the hazards associated with toxic pesticide
use can be avoided by relying instead on the use of safer alternative
methods and products. Some schools are implementing non-toxic
pest control programs and finding great success, but most continue
using pesticides. The Neighborhood Network, along with several
other environmental and public health organizations, is available
to provide information to assist school districts interested in
adopting a pest control program that relies upon non-toxic alternatives
Demand Safer Schools
the New York State Department of Education Commissioner adopted
regulations that require each school district to adopt a comprehensive
maintenance plan that "shall include provisions for a least-toxic
approach to integrated pest management." Each school district
has the power and responsibility to make all decisions about pest
control methods on school grounds, and unfortunately, many districts
still rely on toxic pesticides.
Parents, however, can make a difference by demanding that their
school district take action to remove toxic hazards from the school
environment. Armed with the detailed information provided in the
new notices that will be sent out this year, parents can now ask
the common sense question: "Why does our school continue
to use toxic pesticides when effective alternatives are readily
Parents Urged to Write School District Superintendents
Please see the reverse side for details on how to write your school
district superintendent to demand: 1) a copy of the formally adopted
comprehensive pest management plan; 2) that the plan provide for
eliminating all use of toxic pesticides on school grounds; 3)
that school personnel be trained and educated in the latest non-toxic
methods of pest control; and 4) that a health and safety committee
be activated to ensure implementation of the least toxic pest
Studies Demonstrate Need to Protect Children from Pesticide
Children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects
of pesticides because their liver & kidneys are
still developing and are unable to detoxify and excrete
certain chemicals from the body as quickly as adults.
Also, effects on a child's developing nervous system,
including the brain, can have long term effects. (Pesticides
in the Diets of Infants & Children, National Research
"Common symptoms of pesticide exposure include
headaches, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea." (Recognition
& Management of Pesticide Poisoning, EPA 1999.)
Other reported symptoms have included respiratory problems,
rashes, and eye & throat irritation. Such symptoms
are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
Children who have been exposed to household insecticides
within the home are 3 to 7 times more likely to develop
non-Hodgkin lymphoma compared to children not exposed.
(CANCER, a publication of the American Cancer Society,
December 2000, Vol. 89, No. 11.)
One of the largest studies to date has found
that pesticide use around the home can more than double
the chance of a child developing neuroblastoma cancer.
Epidemiology, January 2001, Vol. 12.)
Write to Your School
Use the sample letter
below as a guide. Demand that the school adopt a pest management
plan that reduces or eliminates the use of toxic pesticides. If
the school already has a plan, ask for a copy.
If your child attends
a private school, write to the principal or other top administrator.
Remember, always ask
for a written response to any letter you write to school administrators
or any other public officials.
My school district
Hometown, NY 11777
I am concerned about pesticide use in my child's
school, and am aware that the Department of Education
has required that New York schools maintain a comprehensive
plan for the implementation of a least toxic approach
to Integrated Pest Management (IPM). I would like to request
a copy of the IPM plan. I believe that the use of toxic
pesticides on school buildings and grounds should be eliminated,
and that school personnel should be trained and educated
in the latest non-toxic methods of pest control as part
of this plan. Please also include the contact information
for the person(s) overseeing the plan's implementation.
I would also like to request that the district's required
Health and Safety Committee work together with the PTA
to ensure implementation of a least-toxic pest control
Please provide me with a written response to this letter
at your earliest convenience, Thank you,
Follow Up Actions
district is required by law to maintain a Health & Safety
Committee. Be aware that some committees may be less active than
others. In some cases, individual schools may have their own Health
& Safety Committee. If you want to be more involved, ask them
if there are any meetings scheduled that you can attend.
Work with your
school Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) to find out what actions
are being taken to address this issue.
Network at 631-963-5454 for information on alternatives to pesticides.
"Pesticides in Schools: Reducing the Risks," Attorney
General of New York State, 1996.