Environment Council of Rhode Island

...building an ecologically healthy future in a sustainable economy

Integrated Pest Management for RI Schools

Pub Date: 
Wednesday, March 14, 2001


  • children are at high risk to the adverse effects associated with pesticide exposure;
  • numerous studies document that children exposed to pesticides suffer elevated rates of childhood leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma and brain cancer;
  • studies link pesticide exposure to the alarming childhood asthma rate and respiratory problems;
  • scientists increasingly associate learning disabilities or attention deficit disorders with low-level toxic chemical exposure because of their affect on the central nervous system;
  • pesticides can increase susceptibility to certain cancers by breaking down the immune system's surveillance against cancer cells;
  • infants and children, the aged and the chronically ill are at greatest risk from chemically induced immune-suppression; and


  • the rate of childhood cancer is increasing approximately 1% per year on average, and cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among non-infant children under the age of 15;
  • the overall incidence of childhood cancer increased 10% and soft tissue sarcoma and brain cancer incidence increased more than 25% between 1973 and 1991;
  • children with brain cancer are more likely to have been exposed to insecticides in the home than children in normal control studies;
  • a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute indicates that household and garden pesticide use can increase the risk of childhood leukemia as much as seven-fold;
  • studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer and soft tissue sarcoma;
  • the most commonly used non-agriculture herbicide, 2,4-D,11 has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in scientific studies; and


  • among the health effects of 48 commonly used pesticides in schools: 22 are probable or possible carcinogens, 26 have been shown to cause reproductive effects, 31 damage the nervous system, 31 injure the liver or kidney, 41 are sensitizers or irritants, and 16 can cause birth defects;
  • symptoms of exposure to commonly used pesticides include: nausea, dizziness, headaches, aching joints, disorientation, inability to concentrate, vomiting, convulsions, skin irritations, flu-like symptoms and asthma-like problems;
  • in a comparative study in Mexico, children exposed to pesticides demonstrated decreases in stamina, coordination, memory, and the ability to draw familiar subjects;
  • animal studies link pesticides in the organochlorine, organophosphates, and pyrethroid families to hyperactivity, and organophosphates are also linked to developmental delays, behavioral disorders and motor dysfunction in animal studies; and


  • a 1998 study found that chlorpyrifos accumulated on furniture, toys and other sorbant surfaces up to two weeks after application, and a separate study found substantially higher chlorpyrifos concentrations in the infant breathing zone;
  • in other research, testers found airborne concentrations of six out of seven insecticides through the third day following their application in separate rooms, and a 1996 study found that 2,4-D can be tracked from lawns into homes, leaving residues of the herbicide in carpets;
  • US EPA's Non-Occupational Pesticide Exposure Study found tested households had at least five pesticides in indoor air at levels often ten times greater than outside air levels; and


  • the National PTA issued a position statement in 1992 stating that "the National PTA is particularly concerned about the use of pesticides in and around schools and child care centers because children are there for much of their young lives, ... and the National PTA supports efforts at the federal, state, and local levels to eliminate the environmental health hazards caused by pesticide use in and around schools and childcare centers, ... and encourages the integrated pest management approach to managing pests and the environment in schools and child care centers;"
  • the American Medical Association's Council on Scientific Affairs states that "particular uncertainty exists regarding the long-term health effects of low-dose pesticide exposure and considering these data gaps, it is prudent to limit pesticide exposures and to use the least toxic chemical pesticide or non chemical alternative;" and


  • Maryland schools reported 100% of 17 school districts surveyed had adopted integrated pest management (IPM) policies that discourage the routine use of pesticides;
  • Albert Greene, National IPM Coordinator for the US General Services Administration, has implemented IPM in 30 million square feet of approximately 7,000 federal buildings in the capital area without spraying toxic insecticides, and Greene has stated, "that it can be pragmatic, economical, and effective on a massive scale;"
  • according to the US EPA, "preliminary indications from IPM programs in school systems suggest that long term costs of IPM may be less than a conventional pest control program."

Now therefore be it resolved the Environment Council of Rhode Island

  • calls for the protection of children in schools and day care settings throughout the state from the harmful health effects of pesticide use;
  • urges requiring the use of best practices through non-toxic or least toxic integrated pest management techniques;
  • urges banning the most highly toxic pesticides from school and day care settings;
  • urges that any pesticides used be applied only by certified commercial applicators;
  • declares the right of all parents, teachers and school personnel to be informed prior to the application of toxic pesticides on school grounds or in school buildings; and
  • supports Rhode Island Senate Bill S-660 sponsored by Senator Rhoda Perry and others.

Note: S-660 introduced in 2001 is S-2465 in the 2002 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly.