Pesticides in Schools
What 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.
Non-Toxic Alternatives are Available
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 to pesticides.
Demand Safer Schools
In 1999, 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 available?"
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 control policy.
Authoritative Studies Demonstrate Need to Protect Children from Pesticide Exposures
" 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 Council, 1993.)
" "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 Superintendent Today!
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 strategy.
Please provide me with a written response to this letter at your earliest convenience, Thank you,
Follow Up Actions
" Each school 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.
" Contact Neighborhood Network at 631-963-5454 for information on alternatives to pesticides.
Further Resources: "Pesticides in Schools: Reducing the Risks," Attorney General of New York State, 1996.