The NYS Department of Health has organized a website with extensive information on school environmental health, defined as the way the physical environment of school buildings and school grounds influences the overall health and safety of occupants. The key role that IPM plays in protecting school children and staff is prominent and includes resources from the NYS IPM Program. If you have not visited the site in a while, check it out at https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/healthy_schools/index.htm
A chemical smell wafting through an upstate middle-school classroom last fall ended up sending six students to the hospital. What happened?
A member of the custodial staff sprayed wasp killer by a fresh-air intake. Some of that spray ended up in a second floor classroom. Fourteen students and two staff members felt ill, according to a newspaper account; in fact, the school was evacuated for more than a half hour.
The school was fined $5,500 for violating three pesticide regulations. But incidents like this are preventable by practicing integrated pest management.
Many state regulations pertain to pesticide use in and around schools. You can find a synopsis here. But first and foremost — anyone who applies pesticides on school property must meet pesticide application certification requirements. (The same applies to child care centers, office buildings, or any other commercial or public property.) If the certified applicator is a school employee, then the school itself must be registered and appropriately insured.
Neither the school’s pesticide-application notification requirements nor the Child Safe Playing Fields Act were violated, since each provides exemptions for the use of small containers of aerosol products in an imminent threat from stinging and biting insects. Regardless, a certified pesticide applicator must apply them, and, if applied by a school staffer, the school must be registered.
School staffers can obtain and maintain commercial pesticide licenses after getting the right education credits and passing their exams. You can find information about pesticide certification on the Pesticide Safety Education Program website, including information about upcoming classes.
Consider: without the basic knowledge inherent in getting a license, how can you be sure that staff are aware of the laws that keep incidents such as this from occurring? Who will be qualified to choose a pest management contractor when the need to protect students from the threat of pests — whether increased risk of asthma from mice or cockroaches, rashes from poison ivy, or anaphylactic shock from a wasp sting — relies on an expert’s help? And how will school personnel know what steps they can take to not only deal with existing (and potentially costly) pest issues, but also prevent new ones from taking place?
Answer: Be sure your maintenance staff gets the education needed to stay up to date with the latest pest management information.
The New York State Integrated Pest Management Program has resources to help schools with their pest issues. Visit the NYS IPM Program’s school webpage. Learn about specific pests, including stinging insects. Sign up for our blog, The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management. Send staff to classes offered by our experts.
We are here to help address your pest management needs.
A 2013 survey of the pest management policies and practices of New York State public schools was recently published on-line http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/publications/school_survey/school_survey2013.pdf A partnership of the NYS IPM Program, the NYS Department of Health, the NYS Education Department, and the NYS School Facilities Association, the goals of the survey were to evaluate the status of IPM in public elementary and secondary schools, provide guidance on assisting schools in improving pest management, gauge changes since a 2001 survey, and ascertain the impacts of the state’s Neighbor Notification Law and the Child Safe Playing Field Act.
Highlights include a large increase in the number of school districts with written pest management policies, a low rate of issues associated with pesticide applications, and reductions in pesticide use. Prominent needs that exist concerning pest management in schools include the pervasive issue of food in classrooms and other non-cafeteria locations and the challenges associated with maintaining quality athletic fields in light of the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. The implications of the drop in certified pesticide applicators employed by schools needs to be assessed. Also, geese are increasing as a troublesome pest on school grounds
Approximately 73% of the districts responding to the 2013 survey indicated that they had a written pest management policy, up from 45% in 2001. Official written policies provide a consistent framework for implementing safe and effective pest management. However, most school districts did not have a policy concerning food outside of cafeterias. This is a frequent attractant for pests as ants and mice.
The percentage of school districts that employed staff certified as pesticide applicators dropped from 50% in 2001 to 34% in 2013. Most districts did not have regularly scheduled pesticide applications. However, the rate of those that did, around 23%, changed little from 2001 to 2013.
The most frequent and troublesome pests in NYS schools in both surveys were ants, stinging insects, mice, and weeds. The only pest situation that significantly increased was geese, from 14% of the districts in 2001 to 25% in 2013.
In 2013, we asked schools about their use of minimum risk pesticides, as products with boric acid or plant essential oils. Fourteen percent of the districts indicated that they used these products routinely, while 62% stated that minimum risk pesticides are used infrequently. Future trends in the use of such products by schools would be informative.
Most NYS school districts received complaints about pests within three years prior to 2013. Not over two per cent had received complaints about pesticide applications during the same period.
Almost 90% of the survey respondents indicated that they had not experienced any problems implementing the Neighbor Notification Law, and almost 50% stated that the law resulted in a significant reduction in pesticide use by their school districts. Almost 60% indicated little impact of the Child Safe Playing Field Act since they had already implemented pesticide alternatives. About 22% stated a major impact and anticipated difficulty in maintaining quality of the grounds. Another 20% indicated moderate changes to their practices and that they were looking into pesticide alternatives. Over 60% of the survey respondents indicated that the Child Safe Playing Field Act had caused a reduction in pesticide use by their school districts.