Children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure. They take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. The U.S. EPA, National Academy of Sciences, and American Public Health Association, among others, have voiced concerns about the danger that pesticides pose to children. The body of evidence in scientific literature shows that pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine system, even at low levels. Several pesticides, such as pyrethrins and pyrethroids, organophosphates and carbamates, are also known to cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Healthy Schools

The Schooling of State Pesticide Laws – 2010 Update, examines the patchwork of state school pesticide laws showing the need for a federal law.

Beyond Pesticides’ Healthy Schools Project aims to minimize and eliminate the risks posed by pesticides through the adoption of school pest management policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level, thereby creating a healthier learning environment. Central to this effort are activities aimed at public education on pesticide hazards and efficacy of alternatives, and the continued development of model communities that serve as examples.

Recognizing a growing concern of school administrators, staff and parents regarding the mounting evidence that pesticides pose a public health hazard and a consequent commitment to non-toxic options, the implementation of safer pest management practices by 27 school districts and schools in 19 states are documented in Safer Schools: Achieving a Healthy Learning Environment Through Integrated Pest Management, a report by the School Pesticide Reform Coalition and Beyond Pesticides. Written by a broad group of individuals representing advocacy groups, state agencies, pest control companies, and school staff, the report leverages schools, states, and the federal government to adopt safer pest management programs for schools and communities.

Safer Schools provides comprehensive details of an integrated pest management (IPM) program by: (1) explaining what an IPM program is and why it is necessary; (2) highlighting 27 school districts and individual school IPM policies and programs; and, (3) outlining the basic steps to getting a school IPM program adopted. The report also includes a list of organizations, pest management companies, and government and school contacts that can provide a wealth of information on adopting a school IPM policy and its implementation; a list of states and schools that have an IPM/pesticide policy; and, a pest prevention strategies checklist.

Whether it is advocating for the the adoption of the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA) or local and state policies, having examples of existing and economically feasible programs is critical.

For more information, see the latest news on children’s health and pesticide use in schools, information on childhood asthma, current state/local policies, model policies to pass in your community, information on school integrated pest management and the School Pesticide Reform Coalition. See also alerts, media (PSAs and press releases), publications (reports, factsheets and more), and resources.

Take Action

Support the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA) of 2012. Federal legislation is needed to protect children from toxic pesticides used in and around schools.