IPM

Endorsing a Path to Healthier Schools

One of the most rewarding parts of my job as Assistant Administrator is visiting schools that have transformed themselves by reducing the unnecessary exposure of students, teachers, and staff to pests, allergens, and pesticides. Safer, healthier and well-maintained school environments can improve attendance rates, student learning and even school pride. Reduced pesticide use can also save money.

How have these particular schools done it? It all starts with a champion – someone to introduce and advocate for his or her school to change its approach to pest management. This person can be a school superintendent, nurse, plant manager, teacher, or even a parent. Second, the changes can be simple.  Very often it’s about tackling the source of the pest problem which can remove or reduce the need for pesticide treatments in the future. This approach is called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM.

With so many success stories popping up, the question was: how can EPA reach the thousands of school administrators, nurses, plant managers, teachers and PTAs across the country to give them information they can use to transform their schools?

Recently we took a huge first step towards meeting this challenge! Twenty national organizations came to Washington, DC to stand with EPA and sign on to help the agency in the effort to reduce the unnecessary exposure of students, teachers, and staff to pests and pesticides.

The goal is to “make IPM practices the standard in all schools over the next three years.”  And these partnering organizations agreed to use their vast membership and communication channels to help get sustainable pest management practices adopted in schools across the United States. Here’s the impressive list of organizations:

Simple preventive measures like sealing cracks and openings, installing door sweeps, fixing water leaks, and refining sanitation practices can make a school unappealing to pests. Conducting regular inspections, monitoring for pests and pest-conducive conditions, implementing an IPM policy or plan, and providing IPM education for the school community can institutionalize this smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control.

Where preventive measures are not sufficient to eliminate pests, the judicious and careful use of pesticides can complete your school’s pest control strategy.

For more information on EPA’s School IPM program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/managing-pests-schools

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Improving Rodent Control Using Biomonitoring Baits in NYC

DeadRat

A dead rat being cleared from a ceiling.

By Marcia Anderson

In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in programs aimed at controlling rodents, especially in urban areas. Through the use of non-toxic biomonitoring baits, New York City rodent control specialists are improving their pest management techniques to become more effective at tracking rodents.

Biomonitoring baits are essentially non-toxic food blocks for mice and rats with additives that allow for tracking. The baits contain human food-grade ingredients, making them highly attractive to rodents in both taste and texture.

There are two types of biomonitoring baits – one that incorporates a biofluorescent marker and a second that incorporates a dark pink dye. After they are digested, the marker additives are excreted in the rodent scat (feces). Under black light, even the faintest of scat with the bio fluorescent marker glows brilliantly. In contrast, the pinkish scat from the other bait product is easily detected in normal light.

Biomonitoring baits can assist in controlling rodent infestations, especially in sensitive locations such as in schools, childcare centers, and medical facilities. In these locations where pesticides are not desired or allowed, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach is critical. IPM is a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests that focuses on pest prevention and incorporates a diversity of control tactics, including pesticides.

 

Mouse in insulation of a home

Mouse in insulation of a home

In areas where other mammals or birds of prey frequent and rely on rodents as part of their diet, these sensible tracking baits have no impact on non-target animals. They help pest management professionals determine the paths rodents travel between their nests and food sources. By tracking the brightly colored or glowing droppings, a pest management professional can also determine the species of rodent, size of the infestation, range, entry locations, harborages and approximate nest locations.

Biomonitoring baits can be deployed in outdoor bait stations to determine if rodents are living in or entering a building. If entering the building, these baits can the direct pest management professionals to the openings that need to be sealed. When used in indoor stations, the baits show the paths rodents are using as well as their nest site(s).

Both types of monitoring baits are currently being used in New York City. Strategically placed, they can even detect on which floors rodents are harboring. They are a smart addition to any IPM program.

In addition to rodents, the fluorescent biomarker has also been used to detect cockroach movement, their locations of entry, and even their harborages. Are they entering from the basement, sewers, neighboring structures, pipes, or wall voids? The cockroach frass (feces), although much smaller than rodent scat, is still detectable with black light, and glows just as brilliantly, uncovering their travel and harborage secrets.

 

Biomonitoring effectively addresses the pest monitoring step in a successful IPM program. It allows for a focus on the underlying issues that make areas attractive to pests. The baits can also assist community sanitarians in controlling the NYC rodent population while protecting Fordham University’s hawks at the same time. Read a related 2012 blog that highlights the Disappearing Pigeons and Rats from a Bronx High School.

Technical information on rodent biomonitoring was provided to the author by Dr. Bobby Corrigan, RMC Pest Management Consulting. For practical implementation of biomarkers in NYC go to: www.pctonline.com/boimonitoring-rodents-Corrigan.aspx.

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Want Kids to Do Better in School? This Environmental Approach Can Help

Schools are busy places, with bustling schoolyards, kitchens full of lunchboxes and trays, and kids and adults who constantly come and go. These busy environments can sometimes have pest problems that need to be addressed – like flies, spiders, yellow jackets, roaches and ants, for example.

As a parent, I know how important it is to me that my kids and their classmates have a healthy environment to learn, thrive and grow. Unhealthy school environments – including poor air quality — can affect children’s health, attendance, concentration and performance. Pest exposure can also trigger asthma, which can cause kids to miss class and a chance to learn.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Make Healthy Schools Day April 8 A Day of Action!

Providing every child with a quality education is a high priority. Of course we want our kids to learn, grow, and be successful. But the reality is that many schools are older buildings with indoor air quality problems that can be fixed, sometimes with easy to use EPA tools that can help student performance at the same time. One in 10 school-age kids have asthma and some schools can have issues with mold, radon and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).) The evidence shows that health and test scores can improve if more schools put in place EPA’s Tools for Schools, which includes a Framework for Effective School Indoor Air Quality Management.

In fact, last week I attended the National Green Schools Conference where I talked with Dave Hill from Blue Valley School District in Kansas. He told me how their students have shown dramatic increases in math and reading test scores over the 12 years using these tools. I also heard from other local and state leaders about how more schools should use these and other EPA tools to improve children’s health, prevent pollution, cut carbon pollution, save energy, reduce pesticide use, and improve test scores! More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Integrated Pest Management | Working with Schools

South 17th Street Elementary School in the Ironbound District of Newark, NJ

By Adrian Enache

Integrated Pest Management – is that a euphemism for whipping pests into shape? Well, that’s one way to look at it. But it’s so much more…

IPM is a system for reducing pesticide risk and exposure to humans, particularly children. Put simply, IPM is a safer and usually less costly option for effective pest management in a school community.

Two years ago, EPA launched an effort to highlight the nationwide adoption and implementation of IPM in Schools.  The focus: to expand protection for a vulnerable population – school age children. Here, in New York City and the region, we embarked on developing and implementing a robust School IPM program.  One of the main features of an effective IPM program is to monitor the pest population and determine the best pest control methods, using pesticides only and only if all other methods failed.

The first step consists of assessing the existing, if any, pest control practices in our schools. While some schools have IPM, others don’t.   Working together with our state and local pesticide regulatory and education department partners, we developed letters signed by all these agencies outlining the importance of IPM  in school settings and urging school administrators to consider adoption of IPM, as the not only environmentally sound pest control alternative, but also the economically advantageous alternative. In New York State, our letters reached 3,300 public schools attended by more than 1,782,000 students.  In New York City alone, we reached 1,700 schools attended by more than 1,100,000 children.

Naturally, our outreach efforts don’t stop here. We recently reached agreements with the New York State Pest Management Association (NYSPMA) and the New York City Pest Management Association (NYCPMA) to have these organizations promote to their membership adoption of IPM as the day to day operational method. The same is also talking place in other EPA Region 2 states.

Also as part of the regional School IPM efforts, we planned pilot projects in selected areas in New York City and Newark, New Jersey, targeting several environmental justice communities located in Staten Island, Brooklyn, West Harlem and Washington Heights.

About the Author: Dr. Enache is the Manager of Pesticides Program out of EPA Region 2’s office in Edison, New Jersey.  In this capacity, he is responsible for the implementation of pesticide regulations throughout the region.  He feels that strongly that the safe use of pesticides is one of the most important missions of the EPA’s Pesticides Program.  Dr. Enache and his team are focusing their outreach efforts towards schools and child care facilities, considering that children may potentially be exposed to harmful pesticides if misused or overused.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Do-It-Yourselfers Have To Be Careful, Too!

By Lina Younes

In these times, everyone is looking for ways to save money. Whether it’s saving energy, cutting coupons or reusing certain items, we all want to limit our expenses. So, for those who are handy with tools, the do-it-yourself-way might be the most economical option for making repairs at home. While many home improvement stores provide useful kits and information to update the look around the house, one word of caution: make sure that the simple steps you take in your home will not adversely affect your health or your family’s. Let me explain.

For example, if you live in a home that was built before 1978, it is likely that at some point your house had lead-based paint. Why should you be concerned about this? Well, lead paint poisoning affects over a million children in the United States today and it can lead to learning disabilities, hearing loss, and other serious health effects. If you are going to renovate, repair or paint your home, make sure that you use lead-safe practices to contain the work area, minimize dust, and clean up thoroughly after the paint or renovation job is over. Your best bet might be to hire a lead-safe certified contractor.

On another issue, some common home problems like drafty rooms, poorly maintained air-conditioning or heating equipment can all contribute to high energy bills. Simple repairs around the home like sealing air leaks, cleaning air ducts, and properly maintaining cooling equipment and appliances will go a long way to improve your health and save money. Here you will find additional tips to improve energy efficiency and better protect the environment.

During the summer, we see an increase in creepy crawlers inside and around the home. For some, the initial reaction is to grab the closest pesticide and spray it all over regardless of the annoying pest at hand. For others, they prefer to call professional exterminators to do the job. Regardless, the best advice is to prevent pests from invading your household in the first place. If pesticides are still necessary, follow the instructions correctly and safely.

Now, for doing-yourself auto repairs, I guess I’ll leave that for another blog. Your comments are always welcomed. Talk to you next week.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.