In 2012 the Oregon State Legislature adopted the School Integrated Pest Management law (ORS 634.700-754). The purpose of the law is to protect children from pesticide exposures on school property, including regular students and those who use schools for sports activities. The law explicitly states that its purpose is Protect the health and safety of students, staff and faculty;” and “Excludes the application of pesticides on a routine schedule for purely preventive purposes, other than applications of pesticides designed to attract or be consumed by pests;” and “Excludes the application of pesticides for purely aesthetic purposes.”
Yet, despite the purpose of the law, Oregon State University created an official list of “approved” pesticides on school grounds that includes many herbicides that contain active ingredients that are known or suspected carcinogens and/or reproductive and/or developmental hazards. OSU’s recommendations do not follow the purpose and intent of the law. Our children already bear an unfair burden of pesticide exposure on school grounds. Applying known and probable carcinogens on school grounds is unethical and harms the most vulnerable members of our community, our youth.
We, the undersigned, demand that the current Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system be reformed. We demand community listening sessions and ways to submit formal testimony about the State’s IPM policy on school grounds. We must also include enforcement and accountability to safeguard taxpayer funds.
Dear Katie Murray:
As Oregon’s State IPM Coordinator, the people of Oregon look to you to ensure that the intent of the School Pesticide law is fully carried out. The intent of the law is to protect children’s health and environmental health. What will you do to support innovative pest management that is not based on the use of harmful synthetic pesticides where children play and learn?
Beyond Toxics is a nonprofit advocacy organization whose members are dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. We have a long history of advocating for safer pesticide policies and reducing the use of dangerous pesticides known or suspected to cause lasting health impacts. We are particularly dedicated to protecting the health of children and other vulnerable Oregonians.
Beyond Toxics members, allies and partners are writing to express concern at the university’s recent inclusion of dangerous pesticides and herbicides in their school IPM protocol. In particular, we are deeply alarmed that OSU’s decision to allow the continued use of these chemicals contradicts peer-reviewed science and puts children, teachers, and school staff at risk.
Children are Uniquely Vulnerable to Risks from Pesticides
Children are not small adults – they have key neurological, physical, developmental, and behavioral differences from adults that make them uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures. By size and weight, children drink more, breathe more, and have more skin surface area to body weight relative to adults, making their bodies more sensitive to pesticides and other chemicals. Their brains and nervous systems are still making connections and maturing, processes that are particularly sensitive to interference by pesticides. Children come into contact with pesticides daily through air, food, dust, and soil, and on surfaces through home and public lawn or garden application, household insecticide use, application to pests, and agricultural product residues.
Epidemiologic studies associate pesticide exposure with adverse birth outcomes, including preterm birth, low birth weight, congenital abnormalities, pediatric cancers, neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits, and asthma. The evidence is especially strong linking certain pesticide exposure with pediatric cancers and permanent neurological damage.  Some studies of American children have found associations between pesticide exposure and neurobehavioral and cognitive defects like lower IQs, autism, and attention deficit disorders.
OSU’s IPM Protocol Contradicts Science
We urge Oregon to take the precautionary approach to school pesticide use and children’s health. OSU must cease listing and promoting the inclusion of permitted pesticides that are known or suspected of causing harm by being carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting and neurologically toxic pesticides. Thus, while uncertainty about a pesticide’s safety can be the basis for adding them to the “low-impact” list, it cannot be the basis for continuing use of these pesticides and potentially exposing children to risk.
NIH has consistently found that children are especially vulnerable to toxicants in the environment, including pesticides , [5;6;7;8;9]. Children’s organs are not fully developed until later in life. They continually experience critical periods in development; adverse exposures can cause permanent damage, particularly in utero . Children’s behavior and ability to interact with their physical environment change during different stages of growth and development and can place them at greater risk of exposure: children may crawl on the floor, explore objects orally, and play with items they find in the environment.
We are deeply alarmed by OSU’s decision to include 62 known or suspected carcinogens to their “low-impact” pesticide list – We urge OSU to rely on the Precautionary Principle where protecting children’s health is the goal. and to take action to create a list of pesticide products approved by OMRI or recommended for use only in the case of a true emergency on a school campus. OSU must recognize and act upon the knowledge that children, deserve and demand no less.
We will include names of those who have signed on to the letter (see the form above)
1. “Nation’s Pediatricians, EWG Urge EPA to Ban Pesticide That Harms Kids’ Brains.” EWG, https://www.ewg.org/testimony-official-correspondence/nation-s-pediatricians-ewg-urge-epa-ban-pesticide-harms-kids#_ftn1.
2. American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement: Pesticide Exposure in Children, 130 Pediatrics e1757, e1759-60 (2012).
3. Id. at e1760 (2012).
4. Liu, Jianghong, and Erin Schelar. “Pesticide Exposure and Child Neurodevelopment: Summary and Implications.” Workplace Health & Safety, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4247335/.
5. Landrigan PJ, Goldman LR. Protecting children from pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. 2011;21(2):119–120.
6. Landrigan PJ, Kimmel CA, Correa A, Eskenazi B. Children’s health and the environment: Public health issues and challenges for risk assessment. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2004;112(2):257–265.
7. Landrigan PJ, Kimmel CA, Correa A, Eskenazi B. Children’s health and the environment: Public health issues and challenges for risk assessment. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2004;112(2):257–265.
8. Lucas SF, Allen PJ. Reducing the risk of pesticide exposure among children of agricultural workers: How nurse practitioners can address pesticide safety in the primary care setting. Pediatric Nursing. 2009;35(5):308–317
9. Quiros-Alcala L, Bradman A, Nishioka M, Harnly ME, Hubbard A, McKone TE, et al. Pesticides in house dust from urban and farm worker households in California: An observational measurement study. Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source. 2011;10:19.
10. Chalupka S, Chalupka AN. The impact of environmental and occupational exposures on reproductive health. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. 2010;39(1):84–100.
Templates and model programs enacted by other cities: