(By Megan Dunn, Healthy People and Communities Program Director)
Across the country over 50 million kids are heading back to school–and they need you to advocate for healthy standards!
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics’ back to school data for 2015 (the last year for which projections are available), an estimated 50.1 million public school students entered prekindergarten through grade 12 in fall 2015. White students accounted for 24.7 million. The remaining 25.4 million were composed of 7.7 million Black students, 13.1 million Hispanic students, 2.6 million Asian/Pacific Islander students, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students and 1.5 million students of two or more races.[i]
Improved environmental standards, including progressive pest management, is an equity issue because not all schools treat for pesticides the same way. Some kids are exposed to more chemicals[ii] and more dangerous chemicals than schools using integrated pest management.[iii]
As schools tightened their belts in response to the recession of 2008 and reduced state funding, in many cases maintenance and custodial work received the biggest or earliest cuts. Seattle School District, for example, scaled back daily cleaning to weekly or bi-weekly cleaning. Cleaning directly impacts pest pressures, which in turn impacts pesticide use. In lower income districts, buildings are older and have more portable structures. These types of buildings have increased pest pressures, toxic building materials and mold,[iv] which can trigger asthma and other health impacts.[v] In urban and higher minority student districts, students of color are disproportionately impacted by exposure to chemicals and often have underlying health concerns.[vi]
As maintenance budgets stay artificially low, schools are falling deeper into disrepair. Without enforced minimum standards–including school inspections to check for mold, monitoring of pesticide use, and regular testing of indoor air and water quality–our children are not guaranteed a healthy and safe environment.
All students and employees benefit from a healthier school environment with reduced chemical exposure. Safe school chemical polices provide incentive, a clear framework and long-term change.[vii] NCAP is working to establish and enforce minimum environmental standards in schools to reduce pesticide use, and we need your help to do it!
Please sign up to become a School Action Team member! We need parents, teachers, students and community members who care about our kids to get involved. The time is right. With schools testing positive for lead in their water, there is urgency and media attention focused on the need for more oversight and better standards.
By signing up you’ll receive a bi-monthly email, opportunities to call or email decision makers, and useful tools on how to talk about pesticides. All students are accumulating a body burden of toxic chemicals associated with health impacts; join the call for common‐sense chemical policies to ensure that only the safest substances are used in all schools!
[ii] Landrigan, P. e. (1999). Pesticides and Inner-City Children: Exposures, Risks and Prevention. Environmental Heatlh Perspectives , 107 (Supplement 3), 431-437.
[iii] Williams, G., Linker, M., Waldvogel, M., Leidy, R., & Schal, C. (2005). Comparison of Conventional and Integrated Pest Management Programs in Public Schools. Entomological Society of America , 98 (4), 1275Ð1283.
[iv] Environmental Health Perspectives. (2002). Learning the Hard Way: The Poor Environment of America's Schools. Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 110.
[v] Salameh, P., Baldi, I., Brochard, P., Raherison, C., Abi Saleh, B., & Salamon, R. (2003). Respiratory symptoms in children and exposure to pesticides. European Respiratory Journal , 22, 507-512.
[vi] Sheenan, W. et al. (2009, February). Mouse Allergens in Urban Elementary Schools and Homes of Children with Asthma. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol , 125-130.
[vii] (Williams, Linker, Waldvogel, Leidy, & Schal, 2005)