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On Healthy Schools Day, School & Environmental Leaders Call for Reducing Pesticide Risks at California Schools
Communities Across the State Highlight Schools Using Green Pest Management
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - April 11 - 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 a 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 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, would only encourage the transition away from the worst chemicals, but not totally eliminate the use of pesticides on school campuses.
“It doesn’t take a math whiz to know pesticides and schoolchildren don’t mix,” said Karen Perkins, a former schoolteacher with the Oakland Unified School District. “California schools just need a little tutoring and they are sure to pass the green test.”
Healthy pest control, or integrated pest management (IPM), uses common sense and sound science to address pest problems. 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.
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. In addition, a first-of-its-kind report released in March by landscaping professionals 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.
The Healthy Schools Act of 2011builds upon legislation passed in 2000 and 2006 that provided parents with notification about pesticide use on school campuses. The Act encourages schools to move away from pesticide reliance by taking the next step to make healthy pest control training mandatory. It also gives schools a few years to phase out some of the worst pesticides and promotes access to IPM tools already 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. The bill will be addressed by legislators in an early May hearing.