RALEIGH – Students across the state can now breathe a little easier as the amount of pesticides they're exposed to at school becomes significantly reduced. This month, a provision of the School Children Health Act took effect requiring schools to implement an Integrated Pest Management program. Schools now look for alternative ways to control rodents and insects before resorting to pesticides.
"What do you do if you have an ant in the classroom? It could be as simple as you're squishing it. You're just getting rid of the problem right there, no pesticides," explained Patty Alder, NC State University IPM training coordinator who teaches schools across the state how to use the program.
Adler said the idea is to monitor and inspect schools and classrooms. She tells schools to only turn to pesticides in a dangerous situation or when there's a large number of pests.
"If you've got fire ants for instance on a school playground, that's going to be a situation that needs to be dealt with pretty much immediately," said Adler.
Fawn Pattison is the Executive Director of Toxic Free North Carolina. She said she is relieved schools will no longer routinely spray pesticides.
"The human brain is still developing through 21. So, it's really important to minimize kids exposure to toxins like pesticides that can harm the permanent brain and do permanent damage," said Pattison.
Adler said students and teachers can help keep creatures and critters away by cleaning up clutter, food and water, disposing trash and recycling, storing food and drinks in pest-proof containers and sealing open cracks and crevices
"So it's as simple thing as cleaning up well after snack time,” advised Adler. “The other thing would be proper storing of food items."
Pattison said preventative measures that keep pests from becoming a problem make a big difference.
"It doesn't mean no pesticides ever but it does mean that you're dramatically reducing the levels that our kids are breathing in and ingesting," said Pattison.
Under the School Children's Health Act, parents and guardians have the option to receive 72 hours notice before pesticides are used at schools.