GroundTruth Blog

Let's make our schools healthy & safe

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by Kristin Schafer

School childrenLike any parent, when I drop off my kids at school, I want to trust they'll be safe. Safe from violence, safe from bullying, safe from diseases and pests — and safe from pesticides that can cause them harm.

As evidence continues to pile up that pesticides can harm children's health and development, many schools are finding ways to control pests on school grounds without spraying dangerous chemicals. A new report from our coalition partners, Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR), outlines the scope of the problem, the most innovative solutions, and ways parents and policymakers alike can help get pesticides out of school buildings and playgrounds.

Green Schools Within Reach was released May 2, just as the California Senate held a hearing to consider updating the Healthy Schools Act of 2000. The report documents progress since the original law (CPR's first win on this issue) was passed a decade ago. Many schools in California are much healthier places than they were in 2000, according to Paul Towers of Pesticide Watch Education Fund:

We see stories of successful green schools across the state. From the second largest school district in the nation, to the tiniest of districts, California schools have proven that using green pest management is feasible, more effective, and financially sound.

But not all schools are making the grade, and tens of thousands of pounds (!!) of pesticides — often wholly unnecessary — are applied each year in California schools alone. Some are using the most dangerous pesticides, including those linked to cancer, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. Scientists tell us that even in tiny amounts, such chemicals can cause lifechanging harm.

EPA recently launched a national initiative to reduce children's exposure to pesticides in schools and promote more use of integrated pest management. Programs and laws in states across the country (with Connecticut and New York leading the way) are finding ways to control pests without endangering kids health.

Sarah Aird of Californians for Pesticide Reform is hoping parents in the Golden State will urge lawmakers to support the new and improved Healthy Schools Act of 2011:

Pesticides are poisons — designed for no other reason but to kill. We can control pests safely and effectively without using toxic chemicals. State leaders should take steps to keep our children safe by banning the most dangerous pesticides from schools and promoting green solutions.

This just makes sense. From age 5-18, our kids spend an amazing number of hours in those school buildings and playgrounds. We owe it to them to do all we can to keep schools healthy and safe.

Kristin Schafer's blog

is PAN's Program & Policy Director. Follow @KristinAtPAN

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