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Angela Logomasini - Pesticides in Schools

Angela Logomasini - Pesticides in Schools

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Published by: Competitive Enterprise Institute on Dec 07, 2010
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202-331-1010 www.cei.org Competitive Enterprise Institute
In recent years, policymakers have beenconfronted with claims that children face direpublic health risks associated with the use of pesticide products in schools. Accordingly, onseveral occasions Congress has considered reg-ulating such uses, and many states have passedlaws governing pesticide use. Although theselaws may be well intended, they could actuallycreate more serious health hazards for childrenassociated with increased risks from pests.
Congressional Action
By unanimous consent, the Senate passedlegislation that would have regulated the use of pesticides in schools as an amendment to the2001 “No Child Left Behind” education bill.The legislation would have changed the fed-eral pesticide law to require schools to notifyparents of pesticide use three times a year andallow them to be placed on a registry for ad-ditional notification. The House removed thelanguage from the bill. Although the issue hasnot emerged recently in Congress, more than20 states have “pesticide in schools” notifica-tion bills, and pressure continues to mount forfederal action. In the Northeast, nearly all stateshave some form of notification. The Massachu-setts law is one of the more extensive. It requiresschools and day care facilities to develop Inte-grated Pest Management Plans, with the goalof reducing pesticide use. It also regulates whatpesticides can be used and requires notificationof parents and employees.These laws present numerous problems forschools. Perhaps most important, these laws
Pesticides in Schools
 Angela Logomasini
The Environmental SourceCompetitive Enterprise Institute www.cei.org 202-331-1010
create incentives for schools to halt pesticide userather than deal with red tape and bad publicrelations. Unfortunately, laws that undermineresponsible use of pesticides can increase risksof diseases and other health problems posedby pests. In addition, such laws prevent urgentresponses to problems that demand such re-sponses. For example, many require schools towait 48 to 72 hours after a notification beforecontrolling a pest problem. But if a school hasa problem with rats, wasps, or other vectors of disease, the goals of public health and safetyoften demand a rapid response. In addition,these laws have proven expensive for schoolsthat already face tight budgets. Accordingto testimony offered by the National SchoolBoards Association, such laws would cost oneVirginia school district $350,000 to $400,000a year.
Pesticide Risks Are Manageable
Despite claims to the contrary, pesticides canbe—and usually are—used in a relatively safemanner in schools, minimizing risks associatedwith pests without creating significant risksfrom exposure to the products. One reason isthat public exposure is short term and low leveland thus unlikely to have any long-term or can-cerous effects.
In addition, federal laws require
1. Statement of Marshall Trammell, chairman, Chester-field County School Board, Chester, Virginia, on behalf of the National School Boards Associations, in School Pes-ticide Provision to H.R. 1, Hearing Before the Subcom-mittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition,and Forestry of the Committee on Agriculture House of Representatives, 107th Congress, First Session, July 18,2001, Serial No. 107-12, http://commdocs.house.gov/ committees/ag/hag10712.000/hag10712_0f.htm.2. See the policy brief titled “The True Causes of Cancer.”
products to be thousands of times safer thanactual safe levels.
 Products must, however, be used accordingto label directions to ensure that misuse doesnot harm applicators or others who may beexposed. Fortunately, the data show an impres-sive safety record associated with pesticide usein schools. Data compiled by the Association of Poison Control Centers indicates few problems.The association’s report on the topic from 2003
includes a sample of about 2.4 million reportsfrom 60 poison centers around the nation andcovers the 50 states plus the District of Colum-bia and Puerto Rico.
 According to this report, pesticide poison-ing problems are not school-based problems:92 percent of all poisonings occur in the home,and only 1.5 percent of all poisonings occur atschool (it is unclear how many of these poison-ings are related to pesticides and what the de-gree of severity is). Of the 41 pesticide-relateddeaths reported, the report finds that none in-volved school-age children and most involvedintentional poisoning. Only five deaths werereported as accidental—two were preschool-age children and three were adults.In addition,
 Journal of the AmericanMedical Association
assessed data collectedfrom federal medical surveillance efforts, suchas data collected from telephone calls to poisoncontrol centers.
Despite the hype presented
3. See the policy brief titled “The Food Quality Protec-tion Act.4. William A. Watson, Tony L. Litovitz, Wendy Klein-Schwartz, George C. Rodgers, Jessica Youniss, NicoleReid, Wayne G. Rouse, Rebecca S. Rembert, and DouglasBorys, “2003 Annual Report of the American Associa-tion of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposure Surveil-lance System,”
22, no. 95 (2002): 335–404.5. Walter A. Alarcon, Geoffrey M. Calvert, JeromeM. Blondell, Louise N. Mehler, Jennifer Sievert, Maria
Pesticide Regulation202-331-1010 www.cei.org Competitive Enterprise Institute
in the press about this report, the findings areanything but alarming. The data indicate veryfew problems associated with pesticide use inor near schools. Over a four-year period, thereport finds no fatalities and only three seriouscases of pesticide exposure–related illnesses.We have no details on these three cases, but the“high severity” category indicates unfortunateaccidents that may have been life threatening orrequired hospitalization.The rest of the nearly 2,600 cases involvedtemporary reactions to chemicals that left nolong-term effects. The vast majority—89 percentof the cases—were categorized as “low severity,involving such things as skin irritation, dizziness,headaches, or possible emotional stress associ-ated with exposure to chemicals. Given that thestudy measures four years of incidents amongabout 50 million school-age children, these dataindicate an incredibly impressive safety record,despite the spin to the contrary.
Risks Associated withUncontrolled Pest Problems
In contrast to the relative safety of pesticideuse in schools, problems related to pests remainsignificant. Consider just some of the risks.
According to
School Planning and Manage-ment 
, cockroaches “often infest schools” andthey can “carry pathogens that can cause pneu-monia, diarrhea, and food poisoning. Theirdroppings can inflame allergic or asthmatic
Propeck, Dorothy S. Tibbetts, Alan Becker, MichelleLackovic, Shannon B. Soileau, Rupali Das, John Beck-man, Dorilee P. Male, Catherine L. Thomsen, and Mar-tha Stanbury, “Acute Illnesses Associated with PesticideExposure at Schools,
Journal of the American Medical Association
294, no. 4 (2005): 455–65.
conditions, especially in young children.”
 Cockroaches are indeed a serious problem inschools.According to one study published in
En-vironmental Health Perspectives
in 1995,“Allergens associated with dust mites andcockroaches are probably important in bothonset and worsening of asthma symptoms forchildren who are chronically exposed to theseagents.”
Cockroaches appear to be a large partof the problems related to childhood asthmaand allergies. Researchers reported in the
NewEngland Journal of Medicine
that 36 percentof children in a sample of 476 suffered fromcockroach-related allergies.
Children whosuffered from this type of allergy missed moredays of school, had more unscheduled hospitaland doctors’ office visits, and lost more sleepthan children suffering from other allergies.Other reports have found that early exposureto cockroach allergens may contribute to thedevelopment of asthma for some children.The Centers for Disease Control and Pre-vention (CDC) has reported that 12 percent of children in 2004—9 million children—had atsome point in their lives been diagnosed withasthma, and that year four million had suffered
6. Zia Siddiqi, “Don’t Let a Pest Problem Be Your Big-gest News,”
School Planning and Management 
43, no. 5(2004): 42–49.7. Floyd J. Malveaux and Sheryl A. Fletcher-Vincent,“Environmental Risk Factors of Childhood Asthma inUrban Centers,”
Environmental Health Perspectives
103,suppl. 6 (1995): 59–62.8. David Rosenstreich, Peyton Eggleston, Meyer Kat-tan, Dean Baker, Raymond G. Slavin, Peter Gergen,Herman Mitchell, Kathleen McNiff-Mortimer, HenryLynn, Dennis Ownby, and Floyd Malveaux, “The Role oCockroach Allergy and Exposure to Cockroach Allergenin Causing Morbidity Among Inner-City Children withAsthma,”
New England Journal of Medicine
336, no. 19(1997): 1356–63.

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