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 On Healthy Schools Day, School & Environmental Leaders Call for Reducing Pesticide Risks at California Schools  
by Pesticide Watch Education Fund - 4/12/2011
Communities Across the State Highlight Schools Using Green Pest Management

Los Angeles, CA — Communities Across the State Highlight Schools Using Green Pest Management Across the state, parents, teachers and environmental organizations are celebrating efforts to make schools healthier places to work and play as part of National Healthy Schools Day. In particular, California groups note that reducing pesticides on school grounds is not only good for children, but also saves schools money in the long run. “Healthy and green schools are within reach in California,” said Paul Towers, director of Pesticide Watch Education Fund. “But we need to take better steps to ensure that schoolchildren and school staff are protected from toxic pesticides.” Towers noted that the California legislature is currently reviewing the proposed Healthy Schools Act of 2011, which would give the state’s schools some of the nation’s strongest protections against pesticide risks.

Unfortunately, toxic pesticides are still regularly used in some California schools. Of the 40 most commonly used pesticides in schools nationally, 28 cause cancer, 14 are linked to endocrine disruption, 26 can adversely affect reproduction and 13 can cause birth defects. Scientists increasingly find that, even in very small amounts, pesticides have a profound and serious impact on the health and development of children. Young children are especially vulnerable during critical windows of development, where the impacts of pesticide exposure are amplified. But California’s steps towards healthy pest control are falling behind. In just the past few years, states like New York and Connecticut have passed more aggressive laws that ban the use of some pesticides on school campuses altogether. California laws, by comparison, encourage transition away from the worst chemicals without totally eliminating the use of pesticides on school campuses.

Fortunately, some California school districts, like Los Angeles Unified, have taken the lead and adopted integrated pest management (IPM), a healthy, common sense approach to pest control. Calling for simple steps, such as mulching to control weeds or sealing cracks to prevent future pest infestations, IPM seeks the safest and most effective ways to prevent pests from becoming larger problems.

“It doesn’t take a math whiz to know pesticides and schoolchildren don’t mix,” said Jordan Howard, recent high school graduate and local leader of the student movement Teens Turning Green, which works to eliminate toxic exposures in schools. “California schools just need a little tutoring and they are sure to pass the green test.”

For years the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has proven that effective, green pest control is possible. With a student population of approximately 700,000 in more than 700 different schools, LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation. Since adopting its landmark IPM program in 1999, Los Angeles Unified has served as a model for schools in California and across the country, receiving numerous awards for its early adoption of non-chemical techniques that increase the benefits and reduce the risks of pest control. For more than a decade LAUSD has successfully managed pests without relying on broadcast spraying or the use of pesticide bombs. Studies show IPM is not only effective but also economical. In March, landscape professionals released a first-of-its-kind report that concluded that the annual cost of maintaining a field using natural products and techniques can be as much as 25% lower than the cost of conventional (pesticide) programs using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Studies released last year by UC Riverside with 5 major pest control companies found that all of the companies that switched to healthy pest control methods retained the same level of customer satisfaction and same or increased revenue flow and service jobs.

The Healthy Schools Act of 2011 encourages schools to follow the lead of districts like Los Angeles’ and move away from pesticide reliance toward greater adoption of healthy pest control methods. Building upon past legislation that requires parental notification of pesticide use on school grounds, the 2011 Act immediately bans some of the most hazardous pesticides and gives schools a few years to phase out others. The Act promotes mandatory IPM training and access to existing IPM tools provided by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s School IPM program, a program that many California schools have already used successfully to move away from toxic pesticides. Legislators will consider the bill in an early May hearing.

Provided by Pesticide Watch Education Fund on 4/12/2011
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