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. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

“Don’t Bring Unwanted Guests Home From Vacation”

By John Butler

Summer is here, and that means vacation. Warm sunny days, relaxation, and maybe that family vacation to a seaside hotel or mountain resort. In hotels large and small, a problem is lurking: bed bugs. The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has long been a pest – feeding on blood, causing itchy bites, and generally irritating its human hosts.

Experts believe the increase in bed bugs in the U.S. may be due to more travel, lack of knowledge about prevention, and ineffective pest control practices by hotels.

So, I want to share some easy ways to avoid bringing bed bugs home from vacation.

  1. When you travel, take a flashlight along to inspect your hotel room. The most common place for bed bugs to hide is on the mattress and box spring. When not feeding, bed bugs can be found around the bed; near piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring; and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard. Check furniture, the floor around the bed, behind the headboard, and even the closet and drawers.
  2. Look for warning signs. Other than seeing actual bugs, warning signs to look for include dark spots about the size of a pencil point on bedding, which could be from their fecal matter. Also, look for small white specks, which may be eggs. Being aware helps avoid spreading these excellent hitch hikers.
  3. Keep your luggage off the bed and floor.
  4. Inspect, inspect, inspect! If you find signs of bed bugs, notify the hotel immediately. If they aren’t giving you any satisfaction, you can call the local or county health department. Last October, a couple of co-workers and I stayed at a hotel that at first glance was not top-of-the-line. I thought for sure I’d find bed bugs. We looked high and low and when we were finished it looked like a wild boar had run through the rooms. But, we didn’t find any signs of bed bugs and my colleagues and I felt much better during our stay.
  5. When you return home from a trip, it is a smart idea to wash your traveling clothes as soon as you can to kill any stray hitch hikers. You might want to also dry them on high heat. Also, do a final inspection of your luggage before storing it away.

For more information on protecting yourself and your family from bed bugs.

About the author: John Butler is the Pesticides Expert for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Spring Brings Many Things

By Lina Younes

As temperatures start to warm up during the early spring months, we begin to see flowers blooming and animals awakening from their winter slumber. Yet, there are some things that spring often brings that we don’t eagerly welcome. Bugs. No, I’m not talking about beneficial bugs like lady bugs, bees or butterflies, but household pests.

Recently, I had an ant infestation on the kitchen floor. I resisted the temptation of getting a can of bug spray and emptying it in my kitchen. I searched for the source of the infestation. Voila! I had left some dog food overnight in the dog’s bowl and the ants were having a party! So, I clean the bowls and the entire area and the ants decided to party somewhere else. It was simple.

The basic principles of integrated pest management consist of not providing any food, water or shelter to pests. If the pests don’t find anything that attracts them to your home or creates a cozy environment for them, they will essentially search for more inviting surroundings. So, what are some basic tips to prevent bugs and household pests for setting up shop in your home? Here are some suggestions:

  • Cleanliness is a great bug and pest deterrent.
  • Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink over night.
  • Don’t leave crumbs and spills on the table or floor. They only serve as bug magnets while you are away.
  • Repair leaks. Don’t let water accumulate around the kitchen, bathroom or flower pots.
  • Clear the clutter of newspapers, bags, and boxes. Clutter becomes a very cozy surrounding for unwanted pests.

If in spite of your best efforts household pests get into your home, select pesticides for the right pest and follow the instructions on the label closely. By following integrated pest management techniques, you’ll be able to have a healthier home for you and your family. Don’t send pests an open invitation unknowingly.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Even in Winter

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

Recently, my youngest daughter went to Great Falls Park, VA with her fifth grade science class. Since the weather forecast called for a cold day, the teacher recommended that the children bundle up in several layers of clothing to fully enjoy their time outdoors. As part of the field trip preparations, the teacher also warned the children about the possibility of ticks in the park. She suggested using insect repellents safely.

Personally, I was puzzled. I didn’t think that ticks and other insects could survive cold temperatures. I always associated bugs like ticks and mosquitoes with the summer months. Outdoor bugs and winter didn’t make sense to me. I asked the experts in our Office of Pesticide Programs for the facts and was even more surprised with the results. Thus, I decided to share the information with you.

How cold does it have to be in order not to risk get bitten by mosquitoes and ticks when you go outside? The answer: Below 4 degrees Celsius (about 39 degrees Fahrenheit) for mosquitoes.

And, how about ticks? “For ticks—they can bite year round. It is less likely below freezing temperatures due to lack of movement, but they can attach if you come in contact with them.”

In my case, I confess, that I will be more vigilant when I hear about outbreaks of tick and mosquito-borne diseases such as lyme disease, West Nile Virus,  and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, when I go outdoors. And, when traveling to subtropical and tropical areas, such as U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and Guam) we need to be careful with mosquito transmitted diseases, such as dengue fever, too.

Furthermore, do you have pets? Do you take your dog for a walk outside? Make sure your pet doesn’t bring any ticks home with him even during winter. Ask the veterinarian for tick control products that will help prevent ticks from attaching to your pet so everyone can stay healthy.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.