Pesticide regulations in United States schools

When used properly, pesticides can be valuable tools that reduce risks from pests. However, in schools and childcare settings, pesticides should be used with greater care to reduce risks to children. Many U.S. states have encouraged this care by passing laws governing pesticide use in schools. An article in the summer 2014 issue of American Entomologist takes a closer look at these laws in various states and makes several recommendations for safety regulations for schools in general.

Both pests and pesticides can cause illness in children. Asthma is the main cause of school absences in the U.S. From 2006 to 2010, the cost of care for asthmatic children was between $8 billion to $50 billion per year. Pesticides are also factors in school absences; data from 1998 to 2002 indicate that nearly 3,000 reports of illnesses were from pesticide exposure.

Although there is no federal law that specifically regulates pesticide use in schools outside of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), many states have laws governing pesticide use in schools, including who can apply it and where it can be applied. The following paragraphs cover some of the main topics of these rules and how different states approach compliance.

  • Minimum qualifications for applicators: 31 states have minimum requirements for applicators on school and childcare property.

—  Maine requires a commercial license for all pesticide applications on school property.

—  Arizona allows only licensed applicators to apply pesticides in a school or childcare facility.

— In Texas, the school must contract with a licensed commercial applicator or have an employee with a non-commercial license make the application.

—   Vermont requires anyone applying restricted use or controlled sale pesticides to have a license.

—   Louisiana requires all restricted use pesticides to be applied by at least one certified commercial applicator.

  • Pesticide application record-keeping: Applicators are required to keep records for at least one year in many states.

—   Texas requires records to be kept for two years.

—   Oregon requires records for four years.

  • Buffer zones for agricultural applications: 11 states restrict or require notification of pesticide applications near or adjacent to schools where there is risk of drift.

—   Nine states have established buffer zones.

—   Texas, Louisiana and California require agricultural applicators to give notification to school administration before an application. In Louisiana, the parent must request notification.

  • Prior notification and posting of pesticide applications on school property: Many states require school administration to notify parents before a pesticide application is made on school property, post a sign before or after an application has been made, or a combination of the two.

—   26 states require prior notification.

—   19 states require posting; some schools post a “blanket” sign at a main entry point stating that pesticide applications may be made at any time.

—   Many states exclude reduced-risk products or products with a “CAUTION” signal word from notification and posting.

  • Requirements to re-enter an area where pesticides have been applied: 28 states specify a time period between the time of treatment and the time that students are allowed into the treatment area.
  • Prohibited or restricted applications: a few states have regulations that govern what type of pesticide may be used, the order in which they can be used or where they can be used.

—   Texas specifies that non-chemical or low impact products must be used before pesticides are applied.

—   New York and Connecticut ban applications of most pesticides on playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields.

  • Enforcement: state resources for regulating compliance are very limited. Enforcement actions typically follow a complaint or a pesticide-related incident.

—   Georgia toughened its rules after a pest management professional violated the state School Pesticide Act by falsifying or keeping vague records and failing to follow school IPM policies, among other violations. The state Department of Agriculture now issues a warning, imposes fines and revokes applicator licenses for non-compliance. A new form has helped compliance improve

—   Arizona Office of Pest Management inspectors assist PMPs with compliance rather than citing violators.

To conclude, the authors make several recommendations to strengthen pesticide safety and reduce risks from applications:

  • School districts should have standards for pesticide safety training for individuals applying pesticides. Training increases the probability that pesticides will be applied correctly and safely.
  • Anyone making pesticide applications should keep complete and accurate written records for all applications, including date, time, specific location, applicator name and license/certificate number, application method, target pest, product, amount applied and EPA registration number.
  • All pesticide products should be legal and properly stored and inaccessible to children. School districts should be able to dispose of unneeded or inappropriate pesticides at a disposal site.
  • Communication and practices to reduce drift from neighboring operations should be a priority.
  • Information about pre-notification of pesticide applications should be included separately from the large packet of information distributed at the start of the school year, especially when pre-notification depends on parental request.
  • Exemptions for notification and reentry should exist for reduced risk products.
  • Applications of pesticides in categories I and II (DANGER and WARNING signal word) should be limited to emergency situations.
  • Funding for outreach, education, training, compliance assistance and enforcement should be a priority for state legislation.

Source: Hurley, J.A., Green, T.A., Gouge, D.H., Bruns, Z.T., Stock, T., Braband, L., Murray, K., Westinghouse, C., Ratcliffe, S.T., Pehlman, D., and Crane, L. (2014). Regulating Pesticide Use in United States Schools. American Entomologist 60 (2).

One Response

  1. I work for GIS mapping company that make an Android based data collection app called MapItfast, and we run into the same problems ALL THE TIME! The best way to keep everyone safe is knowledge, not just of what is being used to treat vegetation and pests, but where and when different chemicals / products were used.

    Since tracking can be a problem by itself as people try and coordinate resources, we offer free versions of our gis mapping and data collection software for personal use and at a discount for educational purposes. The software is available for any Android mobile device, so there is no expensive equipment to purchase. This can be really helpful to those who need a powerful system to show the history of every application, but not so complicated that it takes a genius to understand how to use it and it doesn’t break the bank.

    Great article and keep it up!
    Jason Hodges

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