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Schools violate policy with pesticide use

Submitted by on 1, October 30, 2008 – 2:30 pmNo Comment

Just over a month ago, we told you that Alameda Unified is using pesticides at the schools despite questions about whether they’re safe to use around kids and the availability of less-toxic products. We have since learned that in doing so the district is actually violating its own policy on pesticide use, which essentially bars the district from using pesticides except in emergency situations. And we’re told they may be violating state law around notification and maintenance of records on pesticide use too.

The district’s integrated pest management policy was approved by the school board in 2001 and put into place a year later, according to Laura DiDonato, a parent who sits on the committee that helped to create it. But DiDonato said the district stopped following the policy when new maintenance and facilities managers took the reins last year.

She also said the district isn’t following state rules that require school districts to allow parents to register to be notified when pesticides are going to be sprayed, post warning signs before and after spraying and maintain records of pesticide use for four years for public inspection, and to designate a pest management coordinator to handle the requirements. Only the rule requiring a general notification of pesticides that could be used is being followed, DiDonato and another member of the committee said in a letter to the school board and Superintendent Ardella Dailey last month.

DiDonato said she has met with maintenance and operations head Leland Noll and is hopeful the district will comply with its policy and the law. Neither Noll nor Dailey returned our calls seeking comment.

The district’s policy doesn’t appear to be online anymore, so we’ll include a portion of it here and would be glad to e-mail anyone who wants a copy. Meanwhile, DiDonato said anyone interesting in joining the pest management committee or getting more information can e-mail her, at lbryon@alamedanet.net.

From the policy:

The Alameda School District (AUSD) recognizes that the maintenance of a safe, clean and healthy environment for students and staff is essential to learning. It is the goal of the District to provide for the safest and lowest risk approach to control pest problems, while protecting students, staff, the environment, and District property.

The District recognizes that pesticides pose risks to human health and the environment, with special risks to children. It is recognized that pesticides cause adverse human health effects such as cancer, neurological disruption, birth defects, genetic alteration, reproductive harm, immune system dysfunction, endocrine disruption and acute poisoning.

The Precautionary Principle states:

When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

The District hereby adopts the Precautionary Principle as the basis for this Least-Toxic Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The principle recognizes that:

No pesticide product is completely free from risk or threat to human health, and

Industrial producers should be required to prove that their pesticide products demonstrate the absence of these risks, which include cancer, neurological disruption, birth defects, genetic alteration, reproductive harm, immune system dysfunction, endocrine disruption, and acute poisoning, rather than requiring that the government or the public prove that human health is being harmed.

The District hereby adopts a Least-Toxic IPM Policy. Whenever possible, IPM take a preventive approach by identifying and removing, to the degree feasible, the basic causes of the problem rather than merely attacking the symptoms (the pests). The full range of combined strategies, including taking no action, will be considered first, with chemical controls used as a last resort, giving preference to methods that pose the least hazard to people and the environment and excluding use of the most hazardous pesticides. The District’s long-term goal is the eventual elimination of harmful chemicals in schools.

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