Feb. 2, 2006 -- OEC Report Focuses on Pest Control Practices in Schools
Survey Results Released Today Show That Only 13% of Oregon School Districts are Pesticide-Free
Portland, OR - A new report released today provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the pest control practices of Oregon schools, including a look at the use of pesticides in schools. The survey found that pesticide use is common and that the majority of pesticides are used to control weeds on school grounds.
The survey was conducted by the Oregon Environmental Council, in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Education. Of the 198 school districts surveyed regarding their pest management practices, 103 school districts responded, representing 68 percent of all students attending public school in Oregon.
The survey found that most schools are not familiar with the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is a widely accepted approach to controlling pests that avoids or minimizes the use of pesticides. At the same time, nearly 70 percent of the schools surveyed said they were interested in learning more about how IPM could help them control pests effectively.
“The use of pesticides can put the health of students and staff at risk,” said Laura Weiss, Program Director for the Oregon Environmental Council and report author. “Schools have lots of options for controlling pests that don’t include the use of expensive and potentially dangerous chemicals.”
Among the surveys findings:
- Only 13 percent of Oregon school districts say they never use pesticides;
- Most pesticide use is to control weeds on athletic fields, lawns and playgrounds;
- Most schools (64%) apply pesticides only when a pest problem is present;
- Some districts are using pesticides which are linked to cancer, reproductive problems, hormone system damage or nervous system damage;
- Most school districts (72%) have no pest control policy in place.
“This report illustrates the fact that Oregon schools can control pests effectively and minimize the use of pesticides,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo. “With the growing concerns about pesticides, many schools are developing safer, more effective pest management programs that reduce use of toxic chemicals.”
The survey also found that 70% of schools did not comply with Oregon’s pesticide use reporting law, primarily because they were not fully informed of the law’s requirements. Seventy percent also said they were interested in having more information about the law’s requirements. The Legislature is currently debating the fate of the pesticide use reporting program.
The report includes a set of recommendations to reduce the risks associated with pesticide use in school settings, including providing training, technical assistance and incentives to schools to promote IPM practices. One of the more timely recommendations is for the Legislature to ensure implementation of pesticide use reporting, which would require all schools to report their use of pesticides to the state every year.