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Pesticides and herbicides kill bothersome insects, rodents and weeds, but scientists have found that they are harmful to humans as well, especially children. Despite the abundance of research documenting the health risks associated with pesticide use, these chemicals continue to be used in close proximity to children.
Children’s behaviors, such as putting things in their mouths and playing on the floor, greatly increase their risk of inhaling, swallowing, touching, or otherwise coming into contact with pesticide residues.
The effects of prolonged exposure to pesticides include neurological and reproductive damage and cancer. Immediate health effects include eye and throat irritation, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, flu-like symptoms, upper respiratory distress, and, in extreme cases, death.
In most states, pesticides are applied on lawns, school grounds and public parks without any notification to parents. CEHP advocates using Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, for effective pest control. IPM prevents pest problems without harming people or the environment.
Successful Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, begins with “pest proofing” the building. Additionally, monitoring is conducted to determine whether problems exist and to what degree. IPM does not require pesticide applications on a routine schedule. Successful IPM programs reduce not only health hazards, but also costs, by avoiding expensive chemicals and unnecessary treatments. Well-run IPM programs typically save 30% in pest management costs, and are more effective than spraying. IPM companies can be hired to set up and manage the IPM program.
The keys to a good IPM program are:
- An IPM committee composed of community members and stakeholders
- Preventative and alternative pest controls should be used first: good sanitation, blocking pest access, and regular building maintenance to prevent pest infestations
- Only uses least-toxic pesticides if pests present an immediate health or safety hazard
- Written notification to parents if ever least-toxic pesticides are to be applied, at least 72 hours in advance.
For information about school-based IPM, including health and cost benefits, available trainings, laws and more, visit:
- CHEJ’s Green Flag Schools Program for Environmental Leadership: IPM Resource Packet
- Beyond Pesticides
- Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management
- The IPM Institute of North America, Inc.
For a list of school pesticide policies by state, visit the Beyond Pesticides State Pages.