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Spraying our schools

Submitted by on 1, September 24, 2008 – 9:45 amNo Comment

As regular readers of this blog know, we expended a considerable amount of energy this summer bringing you the news on the state’s plans to blanket much of the Bay Area with a pheromone spray in its attempts to eradicate the light brown apple moth. So imagine our surprise when we found that actual pesticides are being applied at our schools.

Buried in the mountain of paperwork that came home at the start of school was an “annual pesticide notification” that lists several pesticides to be used as needed at the schools. (The notification, along with warning signs and record keeping and pesticide use, are required by the Healthy Schools Act of 2000.) And we asked ourselves, is this really necessary? Or are there alternatives?

The district’s maintenance and operations chief, Leland Noll, didn’t return our call seeking comment. So we went over to Pagano’s to see if they had less-toxic alternatives on their shelves, and to ask whether those alternatives actually work.

We found non-toxic doppelganger products for at least five of the seven pest and weed killers on the pesticide list, with active ingredients that included oil of mint, cloves and oranges (instead of stuff like permethrin, which is in two of the products on the district’s list and is classified as a potential carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). And they’re not really more expensive than their more-toxic cousins.

Pagano’s assistant manager Pat Pasquinelli was able to vouch for at least one of the products: Orange Guard, which kills ants and repels roaches, fleas and other pests. She said Pagano’s staff used the product when their break room was invaded by ants. “It worked really well,” she said.

Along with the blanket notification, parents and school staff can register to be notified before each pesticide application at their school. For more information on that, check in with the district’s maintenance folks at 337-7090.

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