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:
- Allergy and Asthma Network
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Academy of Sanitarians
- American Association of School Administrators
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health
- Children’s Environmental Health Network
- Healthy Schools Network
- IPM Institute of North America
- National Association of City and County Health Officials
- National Association of School Nurses
- National Association of State School Nurse Consultants
- National Education Association
- National Environmental Health Association
- National Pest Management Association
- National School Boards Association
- National School Plant Management Association
- Public Health Foundation
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
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