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Environment Matters Audio Podcast

Environment Matters
EPA Region 3
Topic: Children's Health Month
           Clean, Green and Healthy Schools
           Integrated Pest Management - Head Lice

Size: : 4,385k
Time: 04:41

Date: November 23, 2011

Bonnie Lomax:  Hello, I'm Bonnie Turner Lomax of EPA's mid-Atlantic Region and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts.  October is Children's Health Month, and the 2011 theme is "Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools.  Our guest today, Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch is the Latino Community Outreach Coordinator for the Pennsylvania IPM program, a current EPA grantee working on healthy school environments.    Hello Maria and welcome.     

Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch:  Hello and thank you for having me here today.  A safe and healthy environment is pest-free and pesticides are never used where children can come in contact with them. Integrated Pest Management or IPM focuses on pest prevention by eliminating the root causes of the problems. When infestations are present and require immediate intervention, the safest, most effective methods available for the situation are chosen.

Bonnie: How does a school begin to implement IPM process?

Maria: It is critical to find out what kind of pests you have and where they are coming from.
 Prevent or eliminate the conditions that pests need to survive .Because IPM focuses on prevention, it provides more effective, long-term control than a reactive, spray-based approach to pest control. It also reduces the need to use pesticides.

Bonnie:   All pests are unpleasant, but are there any pests which are especially troublesome in schools?

Maria:  Two pests that directly affect people in a school are head lice and bed bugs. Head lice are an annual occurrence in many schools, but bed bugs in schools is a rather new phenomenon.

Bonnie: Let's discuss head lice first.

Maria:  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, head lice affect over six million children  - that's more than 10 percent of the elementary school population) every year.

Head lice are tiny insects (the adult is about the size of a sesame seed).  They  thrive on the warmth, food, and moisture a scalp provides.  A single female may lay more than 100 eggs.

They glue their eggs (called ‘nits') to the base of hairs especially near the ears and back of the head. They are easily transmitted in schools and daycare centers where children have close contact.
It's important to note that head lice are not caused by poor hygiene and do not "jump" from one person to another. They can be transferred between people who share items such as hats, hairbrushes and combs. They can also walk from one child's head to another if their heads come into contact. Also, while head lice are irritating, they pose no known health risks.

Bonnie:How can IPM methods control head lice?

Maria:  First of all, head lice spend their entire life on the human head, so schools themselves should never be sprayed with an insecticide to control lice infestations on students.

To prevent the spread of head lice, children should avoid wearing anyone else's hat; avoid sharing combs or hairbrushes; and, if in close contact with a large group of children, tie back long hair. Re-infestation can take place at any time, so children should continue to be inspected even after treatment. 

Children in schools and day care centers should be inspected regularly for active lice.

Family members of any child found with head lice should also be checked. Unless the problem is addressed at home, an infestation may reoccur. 

Unfortunately, head lice are becoming more difficult to manage because of their increased resistance to prescription and nonprescription chemical treatments.  The Pennsylvania IPM Publication "Got Head Lice" provides additional information. 

The Penn State Extension website http://extension.psu.edu/ipm provides links to everything I spoke about today. 

Bonnie: Listeners can also go to the EPA website at http://epa.gov and type in the desired topic in the search box.  Maria, thank you very much. And thank you to our listeners.

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