Integrated Pest Management Prevents Toxic Exposures at Oregon Schools
June 20, 2012— Students aren't the only ones moving on to new things this summer.
A new law takes effect next week that will help safeguard children's health by reducing pesticide use in Oregon's schools. The policy, which requires schools to develop "IPM" or Integrated Pest Management plans, aims to help schools avoid using toxic chemicals by preventing pest problems altogether.
"Helping schools trim their pesticide use involves taking many preventative steps, and that's a huge part of IPM," said Josh Vincent of the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), one of many groups that supported the school IPM law in 2009. "The idea is that through things like improved monitoring and sanitation, you can eliminate the root causes of pest problems. If done right,
pesticides become largely unnecessary."
The new law does not ban pesticides from schools, but it stipulates that chemical pesticides be used only as a last resort. In such cases, emphasis is placed on using the least toxic materials. "This is huge victory for kids because they are more susceptible to toxic exposure," Vincent added. "It's also great news for teachers, staff, and others who spend their time in our schools."
Other public health and environmental organizations are also pleased about the law. “IPM tactics help ensure that only chemicals with the least toxicity are applied,” said Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis of Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), a statewide environmental group that worked intensively in 2009 to ensure the bill's success. "In the end this is a win for all Oregonians because it reduces our exposure to toxic chemicals in schools throughout the entire state, resulting in a safer and healthier environment for everyone.”
However, advocates say there's work still to be done. Since the law passed during a severe point in the economic downturn, there was no additional funding for school districts included in the bill. This has made it difficult for schools to obtain resources and training as they embark on the transition. That's something that proponents of the law believe the legislature should address in order to ensure that the law is effective. In the meantime, the official task has fallen to Oregon State University (OSU) to develop model plans and guidelines so that schools aren't in the dark.
Some districts have engaged directly with OSU and with groups like NCAP to conduct pilot projects and test new techniques on their campuses. Clear Lake Elementary School in Eugene's Bethel School District recently completed one such program. Principal John Luhman said, "As a Certified Oregon Green School, Clear Lake Elementary was pleased to be a participant in the piloting of
IPM processes for schools. Among the revisions we made was maintaining our grounds and keeping our facilities pest-free through the use of ecologically sound solutions rather than the use of chemicals."
Speaking on the effectiveness of the new IPM program, Mr. Luhman added, "Modified custodial practices also led to improved conditions in the school kitchen, resulting in a decreased need to rely on chemical-based pest control methods. OSU and NCAP staff were reliably available whenever any situations arose that were outside the scope of the training that was provided. Overall, the IPM transition has gone smoothly and has been easily implemented."