Pest Management Issues in Schools and IPM Benefits
In managing pests, the emphasis should be placed on minimizing the use of broad spectrum chemicals, and on maximizing the use of sanitation, biological controls and selective methods of application. - American Public Health Association
Some pests are known to spread disease, bite, and cause allergic reactions or asthma attacks. Unmanaged pest problems and unsafe pesticide practices threaten our children's health and our ability to educate them effectively.
Where to Find Pests in Schools
Pests find homes in many places in and around schools, such as:
- Cafeterias—pests are attracted to food and water in confined locations, such as between appliances and in cabinets
- Classrooms—pest populations increase in untidy areas, such as desks and closets
- Lockers—clutter and food can quickly collect in lockers throughout the school year, providing a safe harbor and breeding grounds for pests
- Gyms and Locker Rooms—these areas can be warm and poorly ventilated, providing breeding grounds for pests
- Dumpsters—waste receptacles and surrounding areas are vulnerable to pest problems, especially when they are in close proximity to school buildings
- Exterior conduits—all openings to the outdoors provide easy entry access for pests
- Landscapes, School Grounds, and Athletic Fields—neglected landscapes can attract a wide variety of pests, including those that destroy school structures
Possible Pesticide Exposures in Schools
- Hand-to-floor contact
- Hand-to-mouth contact
- Playgrounds and athletic fields
Pesticides are powerful tools for controlling pests in schools. However, pesticides need to be used carefully and judiciously, especially when used in sensitive areas where children are present. Children are more sensitive than adults to pesticides. Young children can have greater exposure to pesticides from crawling, exploring, or other hand-to-mouth activities.
Full implementation of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can reduce pesticide exposure, pesticide use, and pest complaints. Put simply, IPM is a safer—and usually less costly—option for effective pest management in a school community. However, adoption of IPM remains low in our nation's schools.
Benefits of an IPM Approach
By using IPM instead of solely relying on extensive pesticide applications, schools can reduce pest populations and reduce the use of pesticides, making schools safer for children and school personnel.
IPM reduces the use of pesticides by first monitoring pest populations to determine where, when, and what kind of controls should be applied. Schools can reduce pest infestations by identifying and removing conditions that will attract pests.
Preventive measures are easy to implement and often improve the overall maintenance of the school. These measures can include:
- Restricting where food is eaten
- Moving dumpsters and food disposal containers away from the school
- Repairing and maintaining leaking pipes
- Pressure cleaning food service areas
- Sealing cracks and crevices
- Instituting sanitation measures
- Cleaning gutters and directing water flow away from buildings to prevent saturation
- Educating students and staff about how their actions affect pest management and control
In addition to adopting preventative measures, the IPM approach includes evaluating a school's pest management practices and choosing lower-risk methods of pest removal and prevention. When developing an IPM program, schools should consider methods that:
- Minimize health risks to humans and the environment
- Minimize disruption of the natural, outdoor environment
- Are least toxic to species that are not pests
- Prevent a recurrence of the pest infestation
- Are safe and easy to apply effectively
- Are cost-effective
What Can YOU Do?
Parents can play a key role in getting IPM implemented at schools across the country. The National School IPM Information Source provides resources to help get you started.