Next time you start to reach for a can of pesticide to get rid of ants or weeds, think of the children — and how Oregon’s public schools are managing their pests.
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) Environmental Health Associate Aimee Code says that Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can actually be defined in many ways, but she likes to approach it by calling it an attempt to get rid of pests while using the bare minimum of pesticides.
“It’s going to have an emphasis on significantly reduceing pesticide use, making a real difference in schools to improve the health of children,” Code says. She says that the best implementation of IPM is progressive and verifiable, and doesn’t allow for the approach that “pesticides equals pest control.”
Complete Integrated Pest Management is coming to all Oregon schools, by law, in July 2012, but some schools have a jump on the concept. Clear Lake Elementary, in the Bethel School District, is an Oregon Green School and started working with NCAP to reduce its pesticide use early.
“Folks just have to be mindful of how can we set ourselves up for problems where we can do a lot of prevention,” says Principal John Luhman.
Clear Lake used to have a fruit fly problem in its compost. Rather than spraying the compost with pesticides or living with the pests, the school consulted NCAP and worked together to find a solution. “They needed to increase the heat and the nitrogen content and carbon content,” Code says. An alfalfa boost solved the problem without exposing children to neurotoxins.
Even mice and ants can be addressed without pesticides, Code says. A lot of that work can be done via prevention. “Clutter is one of the biggest issues,” Code says. Working with teachers to cut down clutter and store projects safely helps, she says.
Preventing mice from entering the building makes a big difference, too. “If you can stick a pencil underneath a door, then mice can get in it,” Code says. Working with building managers to install door sweeps and grating in problem areas can eliminate an ongoing mouse problem.
Code says that calling for reduced pesticide use doesn’t remove that option completely, and she hopes that parents will be engaged with the new policy. “What are their concerns? What information do they want to know? We want to create that bridge between those communities.”
To consult NCAP about working on IPM, see wkly.ws/187