OSU helps schools reduce pesticide use, comply with law

Tim Stock shines a flashlight under a sink in a classroom.
Tim Stock, an IPM educator with OSU Extension, seeks out pests that lurk in Oregon’s schools. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

New strategies save money and reduce children’s exposure to pesticides

With their cafeterias and grassy sportsfields, schools make attractive homes for rodents, ants, weeds and roaches. That's not good becase some of these pests can trigger asthma -- a condition that afflicts 8 percent of Oregon's children. Custodians have typically used pesticides on these invaders. But dousing them with chemicals can create new health hazards, especially for children whose vulnerable bodies are still developing.

The OSU Extension Service is working to ensure a safe environment for Oregon's school children. Mandated by state law, Extension has drawn up best practices for schools to implement to reduce their pesticide use. The plans use integrated pest management (IPM), which employs chemicals as a last resort and instead aims to eliminate the conditions that attract pests. As part of the law, each school district must designate an IPM coordinator. As of summer 2014, Extension had provided IPM training to coordinators from 189 of Oregon's 197 school districts and all of the state's 17 community colleges.

A 2010 survey of Oregon schools showed just 4 percent of districts had an IPM plan, whereas 75 percent now employ the methods. In addition, 90 percent of schools in 2013 reported using non-chemical pest solutions compared with 66 percent in 2010. More than 70 percent use a low-impact pesticide list compared with just 37 percent in 2010. In addition, specially trained IPM health specialists inspect each of Oregon's 1,200 public K-12 school kitchens twice each year.

Backers say IPM reduces costs. For example, the Anne Arundel district in Maryland reduced its pest control budget from $46,000 to $14,000 after its first year of IPM.

Read more about OSU Extension's IPM program for schools in an article in Oregon's Agricultural Progress magazine.

Sources: National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides; 2013 report The Burden of Asthma in Oregon; Tim Stock, IPM education specialist with OSU Extension.

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