DPR Opposes Bureaucracy To
Dictate School Pesticide Policy

Statement by James W. Wells
Director, California Department of Pesticide Regulation
January 7, 1998

The Department of Pesticide Regulation issued the following statement today in response to a California Public Interest Research Group report on pesticide use in schools.

Since 1993, The Department of Pesticide Regulation has worked with school districts across the state to implement reduced-risk pesticide programs. Today, CalPIRG released a report that ignored these local success stories. Instead, CalPIRG proposed a statewide bureaucracy to dictate pest management decisions in local schools. But DPR believes cooperation is better than control, especially since we see no evidence that California schools put children at risk from exposure to pesticides.

Schools present a challenge for pest management. Unlike the farm -- where a few pests may be tolerated -- no responsible teacher or principal would allow vermin in a classroom, cafeteria, or playground. At the same time, schools recognize that pesticides are toxic by nature, and must be used with the greatest care. For the same reasons, schools can be an ideal place to implement reduced-risk pest strategies. DPR strongly supports this approach, called integrated pest management (IPM).

IPM requires an understanding of local problems and conditions. Meaningful solutions for classrooms in the southern desert may not work in cooler, humid areas of the north state. A one-size-fits-all pesticide policy decreed from Sacramento could never provide all the answers. Therefore, DPR sees its role as helping school districts find their own ways to fight pests, using IPM techniques.

DPR's philosophy harmonizes with the nature of California school districts, which are governed by local officials who answer to their communities. Even a major environmental organization reached the same conclusion. In Children at Risk, a November 1997 report, the Natural Resources Defense Council said:

*Parents can eliminate the use of pesticides in and around their homes and work with school boards to reduce pesticide use....In fact, in cases where school IPM policies have been adopted, the parents' role as educators and advocates has been critical.* In making its argument for centralized command, CalPIRG states there is no legal definition for IPM. Not so. In 1995 legislation, Congress defined IPM as *a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks.* Pest prevention -- for example, eliminating entry points, and food, water and harborage sites -- is a critical element. IPM can and does include the judicious use of pesticides--when other control measures are not feasible, and always with a preference toward the least toxic alternative. DPR believes this is especially important in the case of schools.

In its report, CalPIRG failed to examine why a particular product might be needed, how it is applied, and what precautions are taken to protect children and others from exposure. Pesticide use alone was enough to indict a school. This glossy, superficial approach makes for good headlines, but fails to provide a foundation for sound policy in real-world situations.

DPR believes that parents should have access to school pesticide records, and we urge open communication between schools and parents whenever such concerns arise. DPR recommends that parents of children with special sensitivities, such as asthma, work with their schools to take the appropriate precautions. If needed, DPR can provide advice and expertise.

In 1994, DPR sent to each of the state's 1,000-plus school districts a 43-page booklet designed to encourage and assist school officials in examining and improving their pest management practices, and to help them set up an IPM program. In 1996, DPR reported on its two-year survey of the state's school districts about their pest management practices, policies and programs. It found that public school districts throughout the state are developing and adopting innovative ways to control insects, rodents, weeds and other pests. However, we also found that progress is sometimes stymied by technical, institutional or economic constraints.

Since 1994, DPR has also presented *IPM Innovator* awards to five school districts: Los Angeles, San Diego, New Haven (Alameda County), and Fremont Unified, and the Placer Hills Union School District. They were singled out for their commitment to IPM and finding new environmentally friendly ways to fight pests in schools.

To expand on our commitment, DPR announced in December plans to expand IPM outreach to schools. Supported by special funds from the Legislature, we will devote up to $100,000 for the schools project, working with a district or a group of districts to first identify problems, then develop solutions that reduce risk to students, employees, and the environment.

Media contact: Veda Federighi, Communications Director, 916/445-3974

Material presented on this home page constitutes opinion of the author.
Copyright © 1998 Steven J. Milloy. All rights reserved. Site developed and hosted by WestLake Solutions, Inc.