Are pesticides polluting our kids' schoolyards?
Who Controls the Pest Controllers? continued...
It's often difficult to determine that an illness is a direct result of
pesticide poisoning, yet many studies link a wide variety of health problems to
such exposure. According to the National Coalition Against the Misuse of
Pesticides (NCAMP), studies of pesticide harm point to everything from elevated
rates of childhood leukemias, soft-tissue sarcomas (aggressive tumors), and
brain cancers to childhood asthma and other respiratory problems. In a 1987
study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute,
children whose parents used pesticides in their homes and gardens were seven
times more likely to get leukemia.
To address these issues, Lieberman and colleagues Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.,
and Patty Murray, D-Wash., have introduced the School Environmental Protection
Act (SEPA). That bill would create national guidelines for school
pest-management programs. Among other requirements, the bill stipulates that
schools look for the least-toxic treatment available for particular problems.
According to Joan Clayburgh of Californians for Pesticide Reform, nontoxic
pest-control options are currently often overlooked. "People have to ask,
Will soap and water or caulking up the cracks work?, before they apply toxic
Another significant requirement of the bill is a mandatory 72-hour notice to
all parents and school staff prior to pesticide use. Notification would include
the name of the pesticide used, any potential adverse effects, and information
on where and why it is being applied. Parents would have the option of keeping
their children away from areas where herbicides or pesticides were being
The bill, co-written by Kagan Owens of the National Coalition Against the
Misuse of Pesticides, is currently in the Committee on Agriculture, awaiting
action by the U.S. House of Representatives. Its passage would be a step in the
right direction, says Owens. "Unfortunately, we don't have an activist in
every corner of the country to fight tooth and nail for the safety of children.
We need to establish some federal laws so that every child is protected,
whether they live in a so-called progressive place or not."