PANNA: Call for U.S. Schools to Cut Pesticide Use


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Call for U.S. Schools to Cut Pesticide Use
March 23, 2001

A new report calls on schools across the United States to adopt alternative pest management practices that replace pesticides with non-toxic methods. “Poisoned Schools: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions,” co-authored by Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, identifies the hazards associated with school pesticide use, current lack of governmental protection and steps to a safer learning environment. Currently, there are no national protections or standards regarding school pesticide use that protect children attending school

According to Beyond Pesticides, over 100 school districts around the country have successfully adopted policies or programs that use alternatives to conventional toxic pesticides. However, many other school districts still have routine spraying of toxic pesticides for indoor and outdoor pest control, whether needed or not, with no advance notice to students or staff.

In a recent report, “The Schooling of State Pesticide Laws 2000,” Beyond Pesticides documents the limited protection from pesticides that children are given under existing state laws. The organization has worked with hundreds of groups across the country, resulting in the adoption of state laws addressing this problem in 31 states. However, the laws vary widely from state to state, resulting in a mixture of pesticide restrictions and parental notification, posting of warning signs when pesticides are used, and Integrated Pest Management systems.

The School Environment Protection Act (SEPA), legislation currently before the U.S. Congress, would set in place a process that creates incentives for schools to use pest management practices that do not rely on toxic pesticides. Under the bill, if toxic pesticides are used in a school, parents, guardians and staff must receive advance notice of use and information on product hazards.

In 1999, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a national review on pesticide use in and around the 110,000 U.S. public schools and the risk of exposure to children. The GAO report, Pesticides: Use, Effects, and Alternatives to Pesticides in Schools (GAO/RCED-00-17), found that data on the amount of pesticides used in public schools are not available. The report also stated that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not doing enough to protect children from school pesticide use, and that there is limited information on how many children are exposed to pesticides in schools. According to an EPA analysis of the Poison Control CentersÕ Toxic Exposure Surveillance System, there were 2,300 documented school pesticide exposures from 1993-1996. Because most of the symptoms of pesticide exposure, from respiratory distress to difficulty concentrating, are somewhat common and may be attributed to other causes, experts suspect that pesticide-related illness is much more prevalent than presently indicated.

A 1993 National Academy of Sciences report documented children’s special vulnerability to pesticides. Compared to adults, children take in more pesticides in the food they eat and air they breathe relative to their body weight. Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. Studies also show that children suffer elevated rates of childhood leukemia and brain cancer when pesticides are used in homes.

Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP is a national, grassroots membership organization, founded in 1981, that collaborates with community-based organizations and people seeking to improve protections from pesticides and promote alternative strategies that reduce or eliminate pesticide use.

For more information on pesticides and schools, hazards and alternatives, see, under Programs, Pesticides and Schools.

To download a copy of “The Schooling of State Pesticide Laws 2000,” visit

Source/Contact: Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, 701 E Street, SE, Washington DC 20003; phone (202) 543-5450 ; fax (202) 543-4791; email

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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