Parents Urge Schools to Start Year Without Toxic Pesticides; U.S.
Senator Introduces Bill To Protect Children from School Pesticide
(Washington, DC September 7, 2005) Parents from 30 states and the
District of Columbia today called on school districts across the country
to start the school year without the use of toxic pesticides that have
been linked to childhood diseases. Coordinated with the national public
health advocacy organization Beyond Pesticides and local and state
organizations, the parents are urging school districts to adopt
non-toxic management strategies and end the use of pesticides that can
cause cancer, neurological problems, learning disabilities, asthma and
other chemical-induced illnesses. In a back-to-school call for improved
protection of the nations school children from pesticide use, U.S.
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) today announced the introduction of the
School Environment Protection Act (SEPA). The bill was introduced
in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.
I am today asking my childrens school to stop its toxic pesticide use
and applauding Senator Lautenberg and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) for putting
this public health issue before the U.S. Congress, said Dawn Helm of
Paramus, NJ, mother of three children ages 3 to 8.
This national back-to-school action by parents and in the Congress comes
in the wake of two scientific studies released this summer that raise
serious concerns about the dangers of pesticide use in the nations
schools. One study, written by federal and state public health officials
and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,[i]
finds children are increasingly poisoned by pesticide use in schools.
The authors recommend that schools adopt strategies to reduce the use of
pesticides and prevent pesticide drift from farmland.
Another study on human exposure to toxic chemicals by the Centers for
Disease Control (CDC)[ii] finds that residues of synthetic pyrethroid
pesticides, commonly used to control insect pests, are carried in the
bodies of over 50 percent of Americans. In addition to endocine
disrupting effects, this class of pesticides is closely associated with
respiratory illness and asthma, the leading chronic illness cause of
school absenteeism among American children.
Beyond Pesticides has identified 48 commonly used pesticides in schools,
of which 24 are probable or possible carcinogens, 25 are linked with
reproductive effects, 33 with liver or kidney damage, 33 with
neurotoxicity, and 39 are sensitizers and/or irritants.
Today, Beyond Pesticides is also releasing its latest publication,
Asthma, Children and Pesticides: What you should know to protect your
family, to alert the public and officials to the scientific studies
linking pesticide exposure and asthma, a disease that strikes 1 in 8
school-aged children and is the leading cause of school absenteeism due
to chronic illness. The estimated cost, according to the CDC, of
treating asthma in those younger than 18 years is $3.2 billion per year.
It makes no sense to send children back to school with inhalers and
then spray pesticides that cause respiratory problems in the school
buildings and grounds, said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond
Pesticides, a Washington, DC based national environmental group.
Instead, schools can protect children and save money with the adoption
of non-toxic practices, Mr. Feldman said.
Pesticides may kill pests, but they dont prevent pests. Integrated
Pest Management (IPM) does. IPM is an educational approach that depends
on proactive school management versus reactive chemical treatments.
Above all, it works, said Marc Lame, Ph.D., entomologist and professor
at the Indiana University and author of the new book, A Worm in the
Teachers Apple: Protecting Americas School Children From Pests and
Pesticides. Laws in 17 states require or recommend IPM use in their
schools, but many advocates are concerned that these laws do not
adequately restrict hazardous pesticide use.
Parents want to know that their children are not being exposed to
pesticides when they are attending school. Its time that we start being
more precautionary instead of giving children a daily dose of chemicals
as they try to live and learn, said Michele Roberts, project director
with Beyond Pesticides.
Beyond Pesticides is a member of the School Pesticide Reform Coalition (SPRC)
as are the groups participating in this nationwide action. SPRC is a
national network of 26 environmental health groups in 20 states that
advocates for every child's and school employee's right to an
environmentally healthy school. The Coalition works to protect
children's and the general public's health by supporting nationwide
grassroots action and focusing local, state and national attention on
eliminating school pesticide use.
For more information on the parents in the states and local and state
organization participating in todays action,
[i] Acute Illnesses Associated with Pesticide Exposure at Schools,
(Vol. 294, No. 4, pp455-465), by Walter A. Alarcon, M.D. (National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) et al., analyzes 2593
poisonings from 1998 to 2002 from three surveillance systems. While the
analysis finds incident rates overall of 7.4 cases per million children
and 27.3 cases per million employees, the authors conclude, [T]hese
results should be considered low estimates of the magnitude of the
problem because many cases of pesticide poisoning are likely not
reported to surveillance systems or poisoning control centers.
[ii] Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals,
Centers for Disease Control, July, 2005.