Chemical warfare in the school zones: concerned parents are working to replace poisons in the schools with safer, child-friendly alternatives – Abstract

Chemical warfare in the school zones: concerned parents are working to replace poisons in the schools with safer, child-friendly alternatives – Abstract – Brief Article

Paule Hjertaas

The children and employees at our schools all deserve to know when they are exposed to toxic pesticides and to what pesticides. They also deserve to be exposed as little as possible so they can learn, teach and live to their potential.

Our group decided to present our petition to the Regina school boards in the form of a resolution instead of the usual Brief format. We did this for three reasons. First it allowed us to outline all the reasons for our petition in a format that is easily read and makes for easy discussion. Secondly it allowed us to focus on the scientific and other information and the scientific organizations that are calling for very restricted use of pesticides, their phase out and even outright banning for cosmetic, or ornamental, uses. Finally it presented the information in such a way that the Board of Education can simply make a motion to adopt the resolution and, if passed, it would become Board of Education policy.

We presented the following resolution, written by Al Taylor, to our two school boards in Regina and we encourage others to feel free to use it as a template for similar actions.

Be it Resolved…

Whereas the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has made recommendations to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes, especially in urban centres, within five years, and…

Whereas the Standing Committee also recommended a major federal government initiative promoting organic farming to reduce the overall use of pesticides in Canada, and…

Whereas the research done by Dr. Elizabeth A. Guillette, an anthropologist from Tulane University, clearly shows that children exposed to agricultural pesticides, “exhibit more neuromuscular and mental defects. They were less proficient at catching a ball, reflecting poor eye-hand co-ordination. Stamina levels were also lower. Also the exposed children had symptoms of illness three to four times the rate of the unexposed, with a high rate of upper respiratory infections, suggesting suppressed immune systems.” This research was highlighted on Toxic Legacies, the CBC program hosted by David Suzuki. And…

Whereas Dr. Guillette is now noticing signs of very early puberty in girls and female fat patterns in boys (pesticides are mimicking human hormones and their use disrupts our children’s normal development), and…

Whereas the Environmental Health Committee Newsletter for Family Physicians states, “the population is at great risk from the existing allowable levels of pesticide residues and the data strongly suggest that exposure to these neurotoxic compounds at levels believed to be safe for adults could result in permanent loss of brain function when it occurs during prenatal and early childhood periods of brain development.” And…

Whereas the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment states, “we believe that, in as timely a fashion as possible, all pesticide use should be abandoned.” And…

Whereas Dr. Herbert Needleman, pediatrician at the University of Pittsburgh states, “That pesticide use is a vast toxicological experiment in which our children and our children’s children are the experimental subjects.” And…

Whereas none of the inert ingredients (which are sometimes more toxic than the active ingredients) in pesticides registered for use in Canada have been evaluated for the developmental sensibilities of children, including fetuses, and…

Whereas studies in Missouri and the University of California, Berkeley found that the risk of childhood brain cancer increased more than fivefold in families that used various pesticides both in the house and in their gardens, and…

Whereas the Missouri and California studies state that potential health impacts may be extremely serious, even fatal, as some pesticides and environmental contaminants cause cancer, birth defects, or neurological damage affecting children’s ability to learn, and…

Whereas the majority of pesticides and other toxic substances in use today were evaluated based on the hypothetical, healthy 70 kg adult male and not on the 7 kg child or the less than 14 gram embryo, and…

Whereas the Canadian Cancer Society has stated, “We accept convincing evidence that some commonly-used pesticides cause cancer. We have called for a ban on the ornamental use of chemicals that have been identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as known probable or possible carcinogens. (Ornamental use means using carcinogenic chemical pesticides in the home, on gardens and lawns, and on recreational facilities such as parks and golf courses), and…

Whereas Health Canada has so far proven itself unable to regulate lead out of consumer products and has still not banned lindane, a pesticide that is known as an extremely potent carcinogen, and…

Whereas nearly 1000 major agricultural pests – including some 550 insect and mite species, 230 plant diseases and 220 weeds – have now evolved to become immune to currently used pesticides, therefore be it resolved…

That the Regina Board of Education (RBE) phases out the use of all pesticides in, on and around all RBE property within two years, and…

That a policy be established that only child safe, environmentally friendly, alternative pest control measures and products be used, and…

That the policy clearly states that the Regina District Board of Health must approve, and supervise, any use of a synthetic pesticide for rare, urgent or critical conditions, and finally…

That all RBE teachers and staff be informed, through in-service training and workshops, of the hazards of pesticides so that they can inform and educate students to take all necessary precautionary actions when in contact with synthetic pesticides.

Getting Started

In Canada, we unfortunately do not collect data on pesticide use or sales federally, provincially or, seemingly, at school board level. It seems there is no policy for the use of pesticides anywhere, including in and around schools, and yet pesticides are by definition designed to kill – that is what the suffix “-cide” means.

By 1993 the New York State Attorney General’s office had identified pesticide use in schools as a health risk for children, following a survey in response to parents’ and students’ inquiries and health complaints. Since then, some exceptional reports have been published documenting health problems caused by pesticides to children:

In Harm Way – Toxic Threats to Child Development can be viewed and downloaded for free from www.igc.org/psr.ihw.htm (site of the Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility). It covers other risks as well, such as lead, mercury, solvents, tobacco, alcohol, and other common toxins found in cosmetics, consumer products, building materials and furnishings.

Unthinkable Risks – How Children Are Exposed and Harmed When Pesticides Are Used at School can be viewed and downloaded for free from: www.pesticide.org/factsheets.html (site of the North-West Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides). Go to special reports and then children in schools.

Beyond Pesticides has just published (2002) a fabulous guide, Expelling Pesticides from Schools – Adopting School Integrated Pest Management. It can be obtained from:

Beyond Pesticides

National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides

701 E Street, S.E. suite 200

Washington DC 20003

(202)543-5450

(202)543-4791

info@beyondpesticides.org

www.beyondpesticides.org

The following site is essential for developing an alternative pesticide approach for schools. It provides links as well as fact sheets and tool kits: www.epa.gov/pesticides/ipm/.

Paule Hjertaas is a concerned parent whose life is restricted by multiple chemical sensitivities.

Al Taylor is an environmentalist and a grandparent who sees the use of pesticides as both a human health problem and an environmental concern.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Briarpatch, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group