Creating a Healthy School Environment – Part 1: Pests & Pesticides
Both pests and pest control products create environmental hazards. Cockroaches, rodents, and others pests leave droppings and dander that can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks in some students and staff. Plus, these pests can spread infectious microbes. The typical solution to pest problems is to spray pesticides.
Unfortunately, pesticides pose environmental risks to human health. Children are still developing and are more vulnerable to toxins than adults. Pesticides can contain toxic chemicals which can harm people when not used properly. Ensure that school maintenance personnel carefully read product labels when using pesticides in school. Only use chemical pesticides when they are needed and follow the recommended application rates.
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
Schools should make their best efforts to control pests while mitigating risk to people and property. Many schools around the country are using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as an environmentally friendly approach.
An IPM is a way for schools to use an understanding of pest life cycles and how they interact with the environment to control pests in an around the building. Through a combination of various pest control methods, a school can economically manage pests while reducing the environmental hazards associated with chemical pesticides.
Implementing an IPM in Schools
When using an IPM program, focus on prevention. There’s no need for pesticides if there are no pests in the first place. Districts can employ common sense strategies to reduce pests by reducing sources of food, water, and shelter for pests on school grounds. Chemical pesticides should be a last resort. The EPA offers plenty of resources for districts to use when developing IPM programs.
The simplest way for schools to identify problems is a visual inspection of the entire school building and grounds. Do a systematic check of all areas of the school and determine what needs improvement. From there, you can create a school-specific plan to fix the issues.
Here is an example checklist that school can adapt to fit their needs:
Entryways and Windows
- Are doors kept shut when not in use?
- Are weather stripping, caulk, and seals intact on doors and windows?
- Are window screens in good condition?
- Are all shrubs and vegetation at least 1 foot away from the school building?
Trash Disposal and Cleaning
- Do trash cans have lids that close securely?
- Is garbage immediately placed in bins?
- Is trash removed from the building daily?
- Are all food and liquid spills cleaned immediately?
- Are all dishes washed promptly after use?
Classrooms and Offices
- Are areas clear of piles of boxes, newspapers, and other hiding places for pests?
- Are tables, desks, and floors free from clutter and moisture?
- Are carpeted areas vacuumed frequently?
- Are food and beverages stored in air-tight containers?
Kitchen and Bathroom
- Are food and wasted stored in containers that are inaccessible to pests?
- Are all crumbs, foods, and liquid spills cleaned immediately?
- Is the plumbing in excellent condition with no leaks, drips, or clogs?
- Are strainers and grates in place and clean on vents and drains?
- Are sinks cleaned regularly?
- Are paper products stored away from moist areas and kept off the floor?
- Are mops and buckets clean, dry, and stored correctly?
- Is eating restricted to designated areas only?
- Are facility maintenance areas kept as clean and dry as possible?
Develop a Pest Prevention Plan
After conducting an initial inspection and identifying areas of concern, the school can develop an official IPM policy statement. See the Los Angeles School District’s IPM Policy as an example. The report should include specific guidelines in regards to pesticide application. Designate pest control roles within the school, set specific pest management objectives, and train all staff on the IPM plan.
Proper pest management creates a safer school environment for students and staff and avoids the need for toxic pesticides.