Pests in School

It’s not just bullies and mean-girls that pester students at school. Actual pests can become unwelcome attendees in class. With the proliferation of litter, food crumbs and hiding places a school can be a haven for a mouse or a louse. How can we keep our kids safe from pests at school without comprising their health by using harsh chemicals where they spend so much time?

dv1940073This much is indisputable: pesticides are powerful tools for fighting pests. Used judiciously with proper precaution, they have their place in a pest control program. Extra care has to be used in schools and preschools, particularly where very young children are present.

Children are more sensitive to most substances than adults. Smaller bodies and developing systems can’t process things in the same way as an adult. Children are also pose more of a risk because they are closer to the places pesticides are most often placed or sprayed – the floor – and are exposed to more of the pesticides.

Since kids are at a higher risk, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends utilizing an Integrated Pest Management system (IPM) to keep pests under control in schools. The EPA is encouraging school nation-wide to adopt IPM practices so that kids don’t have to be exposed to as many pesticides. The agency hopes to educate administrators and parents about preventative action and alternative pest control measures.

IPM is a common-sense approach to dealing with pests in schools, homes or businesses. It’s smart and it’s sustainable. It combines biological, cultural, physical and sometimes chemical methods to eliminate pests in a way that minimizes the risk to humans and pets. The idea behind IPM is to identify the problem and seek a long-term solution.

Instead of trying to spray away the pests, IPM looks at why they are there in the first place. Is the school environment providing a food source that can be eliminated with better sanitation? Is there an access point for pests that can be closed off? Sometimes solutions like these will naturally eliminate the issues and you won’t need to resort to baits and sprays.

Parents can and should play an active role in improving their school’s approach to pest management, along with administrators and teachers. Here are a few ways to tell if your school is using IPM to prevent pests.

  • Garbage cans and dumpsters should be emptied and cleaned regularly in accordance with the size of the school.
  • Food-contaminated items like utensils, trays and surfaces should be cleaned by the end of the day.
  • Lockers should be emptied and cleaned twice a year, not just at the end of the school year.
  • Landscape shrubs and mulch should be at least one foot from the foundation and tree limbs should not overhang the roof.
  • Fertilizer is applied in smaller amounts through the year and not in one large dose.
  • A pest is identified before treatment begins.
  • The school should attempt to apply any pesticides after school hours and as close to the weekend as possible to give fumes time to dissipate.
  • Spot treatments rather that broad-based spraying is implemented.

These are some signs that an IPM plan is in place. If you aren’t sure what your child’s school does about pests, ask.

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