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  1. 1. PESTICIDES IN SCHOOLS: WHAT ARE THE HEALTH RISKS? a fact sheet from the Safer Pest Control Project NFP The Problem Pesticides are chemicals, designed to kill, control, or repel pests. Although pesticides can also be harmful to humans (especially children), they are used widely and routinely in school buildings and on playing fields. An Illinois law, passed in 1999, requires schools to use Integrated Pest Management and to notify parents and school staff prior to pesticide applications in school buildings. Health Effects Pesticide exposure can occur when the chemicals are released into the air children breath or when applied to the surfaces they touch. Of particular concern are spraying, bombing, or fogging. Pesticide exposure has been linked to a number of chronic health problems that include cancer, birth defects, endocrine disruption, asthma, neurological disorders, and immune system deficiencies. Acute symptoms can occur in the short term when children and adults are exposed to pesticides. For example, in 1993, at least 65 individuals in one Oregon school (including infants, children, pregnant teenagers, and teachers) reported nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headaches, rashes, dizziness, itching eyes, sore throats, and other symptoms upon returning to school after a pesticide treatment. The school was closed, cleaned, re-opened and closed early for the year when students and staff reported ongoing health problems. Cancer Research In September 2002, Environmental Health Perspectives published a study with findings that suggest “exposure to household pesticides is associated with an elevated risk of childhood leukemia.”1 In another study, researchers found that the risk of childhood brain cancer increased two- to four- fold in families that used no-pest-strips, pesticide bombs, garden pesticides, flea collars and certain head lice pesticides.2 Asthma Triggers Multiple studies recognize cockroaches and their byproducts as allergens3-6 and have linked asthma to allergens associated with cockroaches.7-11 Unfortunately, many people believe that the solution is to increase pesticide use in order to reduce roach populations. However, the pesticides themselves may exacerbate asthma. According to the U.S. EPA , Office of Research and Development’s Asthma Research Strategy, “pesticides are listed as one of four environmental pollutants that may influence the induction and exacerbation of asthma.”
  2. 2. Targeting Children In 1993, the National Research Council published a report documenting that infants and children face higher risks from exposure to pesticides than adults exposed at the same level. This is due to the fact that children have faster metabolisms, their organs are in the process of rapid development and their bodies retain some toxins for longer periods of time than adults. Children spend the majority of their time in school or on the playground, two areas where pesticides are commonly used. In addition, children’s behavior, including crawling and frequent hand/object-to-mouth activity, exposes them to much higher levels of post-application exposure to pesticides than adults. The Solution: Integrated Pest Management Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective, economical method of pest control that eliminates the root cause of pest problems using a variety of non-toxic measures, such as improved maintenance and sanitation, which minimize pests’ access to food, water, and hiding places. Existing pest problems are handled in the least hazardous way in order to minimize pesticide use, toxicity, and risk of exposure. Integrated Pest Management has been endorsed by the U.S. EPA, Illinois Department of Public Health and the National Parent Teacher Association. For further information on how to start an IPM program in your school, contact the Safer Pest Control Project at (312) 641-5575. Does EPA Pesticide Registration Equal Safety? EPA registration is not a safety guarantee. In 1995, 76% of pesticides registered for use before 1984 had not been adequately reviewed for their potential to cause damage to human health or the environment. Until recently, the government required little or no testing for behavioral health effects including possible learning ability, emotion, memory, and energy level. Review of these pesticides is not expected to be completed until 2010. Meanwhile, the chemicals are still available on the market. 1 Ma, Xiaomei, Patricia A. Vuffler, Robert B. Gunier, Gary Dahl, Martyn T. Smith, Kyndaron Reinier, and Peggy Reynolds. 2002. Critical Windows of Exposure to Household Pesticides and Risk of Childhood Leukemia. Environmental Health Perspectives vol. 110, no. 9: 955-960. 2 Davis, J.R., et al. 1993. Family pesticide use and childhood brain cancer. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 24 (February): 87-92. 3 Bernton, H.S., and H. Brown. 1964. Insect allergy preliminary studies of the cockroach. Journal of Allergy. 35:506-513. Lehrer, S.B., W.E. Horner, P. Menon, and R.S. Stankus. 1991. Comparison of cockroach allergenic activity in whole body and fecal extracts. Jounal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 87:574-580. 4 Pope, A.M., R. Patterson, and H. Burge, 1993. Indoor Allergens: Assessing and Controlling Adverse Health Affects.(National Academy Press)308 p. 5 Richman, P.G., H.A. Khan, P.C. Turkeltaub, F.J. Malveaux, and H. Baer. 1984. The important sources of German cockroach allergens as determined by RAST analyses. Jounal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 73: 590-595 6 Bernton, H. S., T. F. Mcmahon, and H. Brown. 1972. Cockroach asthma. British Journal of Diseases of the Chest. 66:61-66 7 Call, R. S., T. F. Smith, E. Morris, M. D. Chapman, and T. A. E. Platts-Mills. 1992. Risk factors for asthma in inner-city children. Journal of Pediatrics. 121:826-866 8 Garcia, D. P., M. L. Corbett, J. L. Sublett, S. J. Pollard, J. F. Meiners, J. M. Karibo, H. L. Pence, and J. M. Petrosko. 1994. Cockroach allergy in Kentucky: a comparison of inner city, suburban, and rural small town populations. Annals of Allergy. 72:203-208 9 Kang, B. 1976. Study on cockroach antigen as probably causative agent in bronchial asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 58:357-365 10 Kang, B., D. Vellody, H. Homburger, and J. W. Yunginger. 1979. Cockroach cause of allergic asthma: its specificity and immunological profile. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 63:80- 86 11 Gordon, T.: Amdur, Mo.O. Responses of the Respiratory System to Toxic Agents. In Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons, 4th ed.; Amdur, M.O., Doull, J., Klaassen, C.D., Eds.; Pergamon Press, Inc.: New York, 1991; pp 383-406 Safer Pest Control Project 25 E. Washington, Suite 1515, Chicago IL 60602
  3. 3. phone: 312/641-5575 fax: 312/641-5454 internet: www.spcpweb.org
  4. 4. Pesticides Commonly Used in Schools Active Common Trade Immediate (acute) toxicity risk 3 Long-term (chronic) effects on ingredient Names 1, 2 mammals 7 2,4-D Weed-B-Gon • The product carries the DANGER • causes reproductive effects at high (herbicide) Lawn-Keep signal word on the label indicating doses in animals Raid Weed that it is highly toxic. This is • may cause birth defects at high Killer because 2,4-D has produced doses Weedone serious eye and skin irritation • under US EPA Special Review due Trimec (with among agricultural workers to possible carcinogenicity 4 dicamba and mecoprop) Chlorpyrifos Dursban • poisoning may affect central • effects reported in workers (insecticide) MosquitoMist nervous system, cardiovascular repeatedly exposed include system, immune system and impaired memory and respiratory system concentration, disorientation, severe depressions, irritability, confusion, headache, speech difficulties, delayed reaction times, nightmares, sleepwalking and drowsiness or insomnia Diazinon Spectracide • symptoms associated with • tests have revealed the potential (insecticide) Knox Out 2FM diazinon poisoning in humans for diazinon to be mutagenic, but include weakness, headaches, no fully conclusive evidence exists tightness in the chest, blurred to support this notion. The vision, non-reactive pinpoint mutagenicity in humans remains pupils, salivation, sweating, unevaluated nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and slurred speech • death has occurred in some instances from both dermal and oral exposures at very high levels
  5. 5. Active Common Trade Immediate (acute) toxicity risk Long-term (chronic) effects on ingredient Names , mammals 7 Glyphosate Roundup • can cause significant eye and skin (herbicide) Rodeo irritation Mecoprop MCPP • irritating to skin and eyes • a study of people employed in the (herbicide) Trimec (with • causes redness and swelling and manufacture of phenoxy herbicides 2,4-D and can cause cloudy vision including mecoprop showed an dicamba) association between these herbicides and cancer of soft tissues and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma • may be mutagenic at very high doses Triclopyr Garlon • the product with either have a • Garlon 3A can cause considerable (herbicide) Pathfinder DANGER or CAUTION signal eye irritation. word on the label depending on the specific formulation
  6. 6. 3-6 7-12 1 Aspelin, A (1997): Pesticides industry sales and usage: 1994 and 1995 market estimates, US EPA Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, August 1997, 733-R-97-002. 2 Farm Chemicals Handbook ’98 (1998): Meister Publishing Company, Willoughby, Ohio. 3 Unless otherwise noted, all toxicity information from EXTOXNET fact sheets, Extension Toxicology Network. A Pesticide Information Project of Cooperative Extension Offices at Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis. EXTOXNET primary files maintained and archived at Oregon State University. All revised (6/96) except mecoprop (9/95). 4 US EPA Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances (1996): Status of Chemicals in Special Review. May 1996. EPA 738-A-96-0422.