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The Interstate Chemical Threats Workgroup (ICTW) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) hosted a webinar on December 15, 2011 entitled “Effective Policies to Reduce Exposures to Pesticides in Schools.”
Janet Hurley, extension program specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, pointed out that states have been increasingly adopting school and childcare-specific pesticide regulations because of a lack of federal action. States have implemented regulations with mandates such as no-spray zones, interior and outdoor posting, pre-notification, reentry restrictions after applications, acceptable pesticide lists and school staff training. Hurley comments that such mandates are important to create more uniform success across an entire state, protect more people at one time and allow for more educational opportunities.
Michel Oriel, research scientist with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, reported on school-related exposure incidents throughout California and their effects on state regulations. Data showed that pesticides caused the most cases of chemical exposure to children. One such incident led to the establishment of California Safe Schools, a coalition of over 45 organizations, and prompted Los Angeles Unified School District to implement one of the most highly-regarded IPM programs in the country. The success of this policy also led to the California Healthy Schools Act.
Sherry Glick, national pesticides and schools coordinator with US EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, focused on the benefits of IPM, breaking components down into four sections of a pyramid: education and communication, sanitation, maintenance and cultural practices, and pesticides. She advocates for verifiable school IPM, meaning ongoing and sustainable IPM that includes understanding pests, setting action thresholds, monitoring and removing pest-friendly conditions.
The final presenter, Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, encouraged precaution in creating pest management policies. Feldman stated that many pesticides are considered safe despite the fact that exposure can cause serious health issues, especially to children. Existing pesticide registration laws set an acceptable risk threshold for pesticides based on assessments of exposure and target population groups. However, there are complexities with the real-world use of chemicals that aren’t assessed, such as mixtures and synergistic effects.
All panelists agreed that although pre-notification of pesticide applications is an important strategy to reduce exposure, implementing sanitation and exclusion to eliminate the reasons pests are present is the most effective approach.