N.C. Public Schools Must Use Less Toxic Pest Control
As parents, we worry about the use of pesticides in our food and homes, but what about at our child's school? This week, under a provision of School Children's Health Act passed by the N.C. General Assembly in 2006, all public schools in North Carolina must stop spraying pesticides by the calendar and start using a method deemed less toxic.
The new method, called Integrated Pest Management, IPM, or "Inspect, Detect, Correct," focuses on looking for pests and correcting problems that can lead to pest infestations, rather than routinely spraying chemicals.
The move was hailed as a win-win situation by Fawn Pattison, executive director at Toxic Free North Carolina, a non-profit that fights pesticide pollution in North Carolina and advocates for common-sense alternatives.
According to Toxic Free North Carolina, research has shown that IPM is more effective than conventional spray programs at fighting pests and their allergens in North Carolina schools. And at a time when budget cuts are hitting the classrooms, the method also costs less then routinely spraying. On average, North Carolina school districts spend $1.77 per student a year on pest control, but districts with the least-toxic pest control programs, such as IPM, spend $1.49 per student a year, according to Toxic Free NC's Report "Clean School, Safe Kids."
What's more, under the School Children's Health Act, parents and school staff now must receive an annual notice from their school about the school's pest management program. And they have the right to be notified 72 hours ahead of any higher-risk pesticide application at school, if they request to be notified. http://www.toxicfreenc.org/programs/guidelines.html Pesticides that don't require advance notification include antimicrobial cleansers, disinfectants, self-contained baits and crack-and-crevice treatments, or products that the EPA views as "relatively nontoxic."
If you're wondering if your school is doing a good job using the IPM methods, see if you're getting an annual notice about the program and if you're being told how to register to receive the 72-hour advanced notification. If you're already getting pesticide notices, they should be infrequent and give a sensible reason for using the higher-risk pesticide as well as an explanation of what the school is doing to avoid using such chemicals in the future, according to Toxic Free N.C.
How can you tell if your school is using IPM measures? You may see mulch or other weed barriers in landscaping, a pest sighting log in the main office or other prominent location, pest monitoring traps in out-of-the-way places and a pest management professional carrying a flashlight (but no spray canister). If you see someone making a broadcast pesticide application at school, be on the alert, especially if children are present.