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 reduce children’s exposure to pesticides

With their cafeterias and grassy sports fields, schools make attractive homes for rodents, ants, weeds and roaches. That’s not good because some of these pests can trigger asthma – a condition that afflicts 9.4 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 in nearly all 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. A 2016 survey of schools who attended OSU School IPM Coordinator training showed 65 percent developed IPM plans based on model IPM plans created by OSU.

More than 70 percent of schools in 2013 used a low-impact pesticide list compared with just 37 percent in 2010. In addition, county health inspectors trained by the OSU School IPM Program are using what they learned when they inspect school kitchens.

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

Sources: Tim Stock, IPM education specialist with OSU Extension; Oregon Health Authority, Public Health Division

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