January 9, 1998
Toxic Pesticides Used in California School Districts
Toxic pesticides, including those that cause cancer,
reproductive harm and nervous system damage, are being
used in California schools, according to a report
released today by CALPIRG Charitable Trust and
Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR). The report,
"Failing Health: Pesticide Use in California Schools,"
states that 87% of the 46 California school districts
surveyed used highly toxic pesticides to manage pests.
The report analyzed pesticide-related documents from 46
school districts, representing schools attended by over
1.5 million California children. Researchers found that
of the school districts surveyed:
-- 70% used suspected carcinogens;
-- 52% used pesticides that cause birth defects or
impair normal physical and mental development;
-- 50% used pesticides suspected of disrupting the human
-- 54% used nerve toxins (ranked in the US Environmental
Protection Agency's highest and second highest acute
Researchers reported that parents, teachers and the
public are typically unable to get basic information
about pesticides used in schools. Unlike agricultural
pesticide applications, pesticides used in schools are
not required to be reported to the state, and school
staff are not required to monitor or track school
pesticide use. Researchers had to retain legal counsel
to access records of pesticide use in the targeted
"Parents and teachers have a right to know what poisons
are being used in school," said Carla Nino, Vice
President for Health with the California State Parent
Teacher Association (PTA). "We need to have effective
state-wide accountability for pesticide use in our
The report also criticized the Wilson Administration for
failing to move California schools toward available
least-toxic pest management alternatives. According to a
1993 survey carried out by the California Department of
Pesticide Regulation, only 2% of California school
districts could demonstrate they had model least-toxic
pest management programs in place as of 1994. At least
30% of the school districts surveyed contract with
commercial exterminators for regular pesticide
applications -- in some cases even when no pests are
"I am concerned that schools use toxic materials as a
first resort in pest control when children are in a
developmental stage and are more vulnerable to many
toxins," said Dr. Harvey Karp, Assistant Clinical
Professor of Pediatrics at UCLA School of Medicine.
"Taking a preventative and precautionary approach is the
best pest management strategy for protecting the health
of our children, teachers and the general public."
Pointing to model programs in California and around the
nation, Californians for Pesticide Reform coalition
members argued that combinations of non-toxic methods of
pest control such as improved sanitation, preventing
pest entry and traps can all help eliminate the need for
applying highly toxic chemicals.
"Schools in California and around the nation have
figured out how to manage pests without dangerous
pesticides," said Ric Loya, Vice President of the
California Association of School Health Educators. "So
let's get these chemicals away from our kids."
The report recommends that:
-- The state Department of Pesticide Regulation should
provide training, materials and funding necessary to
implement least toxic pest management programs in all
-- School Districts should eliminate use of the worst
pesticides and adopt safer pest management programs.
-- Parents should request pesticide use information from
their school district, encourage their schools to
eliminate use of the worst pesticides and adopt least-
toxic pest management programs.
CALPIRG Charitable Trust is the sister organization of
the California Public Interest Research Group, a non-
profit, non-partisan research and advocacy organization
working on behalf of consumers and the environment.
Californians for Pesticide Reform is a coalition of over
70 public interest organizations committed to protecting
public health and the environment from pesticide
To order a copy of Failing Health, call toll free (888)
CPR-4880 or visit the CPR web site at www.igc.org/cpr.
Sources: CALPIRGCT press release, January 7, 1998.
California Department of Pesticide Regulation Press
Release, January 7, 1998.
Contact: CALPIRG, 450 Geary St., Suite 500, San
Francisco, CA 94102; phone (415) 292-1487; fax (415)
292-1497; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Californian for Pesticide Reform, 116 New Montgomery
#810, San Francisco, CA 94105; phone (415) 495-1149;
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
116 New Montgomery, #810, San Francisco, CA 94105
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