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How are Pesticides Handled in your School?

(PRWEB) May 21, 2006 -- You probably don’t realize it, but lurking in school
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 storage closets and chemistry labs may be dangerous, discontinued or unregistered pesticides and other chemicals. Even worse, the containers may be leaking and the cabinets unsecured. This poses a threat to school students and staff alike.

 “  Your state department of agriculture may have a storage facility for drop-off of pesticide chemicals.  
According to Dr. Thomas Green, president of the IPM Institute of North America, most school administrators and janitorial staff don’t realize these pesticides are even there. The IPM Institute conducts surveys of school environments as part of a comprehensive integrated pest management (IPM) assessment. “During school inspections that we’ve done, in about one quarter of schools we’ve found pesticides and chemicals that are no longer appropriate for use,” says Dr. Green. “Two school systems had large amounts of outdated pesticides that had been gathered during prior sweeps of school facilities but never properly disposed of. Both were potential disasters just waiting to happen in the event of a fire or unauthorized access.”

In addition, exposure to both pests and pesticides has been associated with asthma and other illnesses in children. According to Dr. Green, children are more vulnerable than adults to pesticides since they have less body mass and their nervous systems are still developing.

Once the pesticides or chemicals are discovered, many school administrators don’t know what to do with them. They have to be disposed of in a special way. “You can’t take them to a landfill, but you can check with the municipal authority or county solid waste disposal or other state agencies for disposal,” says Green.

According to Lyn Garling, education
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 specialist with the Pennsylvania IPM Program, there are usually several additional options that may vary state-to-state. “Your state department of agriculture may have a storage facility for drop-off of pesticide chemicals. In addition, there may be a program similar to Pennsylvania’s Chemsweep Program, in which the chemicals are picked up for proper disposal.” (See Web site http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us/agriculture/cwp/view.asp?a=3&q=127424.) Anyone handling or applying pesticides in Pennsylvania school environments must be licensed by the state and attend continuing education
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 courses where proper pesticide disposal is taught.

According to Dr. Green, school administrators, pest control operators and custodial staff should periodically inspect storage rooms, custodial closets and grounds equipment buildings for discontinued or unregistered pesticides. The same procedure should be applied to find chemicals in science labs and greenhouse buildings.

The school inspection procedure is one component of the “IPM STAR” certification process. Developed by the IPM Institute of North America, the IPM STAR certification is a rigorous process that includes an on-site inspection by an independent professional trained in integrated pest management, or IPM. IPM is a kid-safe, economical and scientific, step-wise approach to pest management. IPM integrates knowledge of pest identity and biology with pest monitoring so that actions, if any, can be taken at just the right time. In addition, IPM uses a combination of management tactics such as biological, cultural, physical and chemical that is more likely to be safe and effective. Emphasis is placed on prevention of problems by eliminating conditions conducive to pest entry and survival, with pesticide use as a last resort.

To become IPM STAR certified, the inspector examines the history of pest problems, the condition of buildings and grounds as well as any pesticides used in the past year. The school must have an IPM program in place to guide administrators and staff as they respond to pest issues, including preventing and avoiding problems before they occur. A point-based measuring system gives points for each IPM practice that is being implemented in the school. A minimum score must be surpassed for certification.

Green stresses that IPM is a perfect fit for any well-run school system. "IPM meshes well with other important goals of school maintenance and administration professionals, such as energy conservation, food safety and security," he says. According to Green, preventative tactics such as repairing window screens and vent filters, keeping food serving and storage areas clean, and closing doors and dumpster lids can go a long way to reducing the need for pesticides.

The IPM STAR Program was developed with funding from the USDA IPM Program, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Foundation for IPM Education. In addition to schools, businesses, organizations, products and services may also be certified under IPM Star. Dr. Green says they have expanded the program to allow cooperative extension and other local experts to complete the required on-site inspection and reports. The program will continue to offer certification to child development centers, schools and pest control operators and others. To find out more about the program and pesticide disposal issues, visit Web site http://www.ipminstitute.org/ ipmstar.htm.

The Pennsylvania IPM (PA IPM) program is a collaboration between Penn State and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting IPM in both agricultural and nonagricultural situations. The PA IPM program's Web site at http://paipm.cas.psu.edu contains a wealth of information and resources for schools adopting IPM programs. By clicking on the "Schools" link, visitors also can download "IPM for Pennsylvania Schools, A How-To Manual." The link also leads to information about the school IPM effort in Pennsylvania and to educational materials from across the country. In addition, the site offers an interactive database to assist teachers with IPM background information, lesson plans and support materials from throughout the United States.


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