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Nov. 22, 2004

Coalition accuses Department of Agriculture for faulty manuals, school systems of pesticide abuse

by Varun Gulati, Page Editor
The Maryland Pesticide Network (MPN) released two reports in late September accusing the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) of misleading school systems into violating the 1998 Integrated Pest Management (IPM) law. However, Montgomery County is one of three school systems to have complied with IPM.

MPN praised Montgomery County for its accomplished pest management problem. "The Montgomery schools program has succeeded largely because of preventive measures...including sanitation, heat treatment, sand blasting, biological management and pest exclusion," stated the report. Each school is monitored at least twice a month for pest problems, a process involving on-site inspection. Schools successfully implemented IPM by using traditional methods of pest removal, including vacuuming insect pests, catching rodents in traps and removing hornet nests manually.

Blair has cooperated with IPM, according to Building Service Manager Quentin Middleton, who says his job is to call exterminator Ed Barnes when Blair has a pest problem. Barnes, who eradicates mice and other pests in Blair, was unavailable for comment.

Principal Phillip Gainous confirmed Middleton's words, adding that Blair has not sprayed pesticides or weed-killers since a few years ago, when Blair was reprimanded for not waiting for an exterminator from West Virginia. Now, staff is only allowed to place sticky traps for pests.

As part of IPM, yellow stickers cautioning staff and students have been placed outside rooms where bait and traps have been situated, such as outside the staff women's bathroom in the 310s hallway. Blair uses Maxforce, a roach bait with main ingredients Fipronil, a neurotoxin, and Hydromethylnon, a Group C carcinogen. Both chemicals are only harmful via "the oral route of exposure and eye irritation," according to the EPA.

Horticulture teacher Leslie Backus explained that most pesticides are classified by their hazardous effect on the human body. "A lot of pesticides have big organic molecules that end up in our liver and don't do good things there," says Backus.

Middleton asserted that the roach and ant traps Blair uses are not harmful and that all pests are dealt with in a safe manner. "[The baits] are approved by MCPS and the Health Department," said Middleton.

Contradictory claims

MPN stated that the MDA failed to guide school systems; eight training manuals published in order to better guide schools in implementing IPM properly were faulty in defining the law.

As per MPN's request to relay concerns to State Senator Brian Frosh, Chief Counsel to Maryland Attorney General Robert McDonald sent a letter to Frosh on Nov. 7, 2002, saying that the training manuals, which were published by the EPA, were not in compliance with the IPM-in-schools law. McDonald further stated that public schools would consequently be misguided. In its report, MPN analyzed IPM manuals, made recommendations for improvement and called several sections of the manuals incorrect.

Many people asked the MDA about IPM-in-schools, spurring the MDA to send letters to each of the inquirers. In the letter written by Secretary of Agriculture Lewis Riley, MDA countered accusations by stating that their manuals simply contained "a typographical error" that had been fixed. According to Riley, the interpretation of the IPM is valid. "The full intent of the regulation is well known to the IPM contacts in all 24 of our school districts, and each has an approved IPM plan in place," he said. Riley cited that "fiscal resources" did not permit the MDA to reprint all of their training manuals.

Riley added that the MDA's IPM-in-schools is a strong program and has been used as a model for other pest management programs across the nation. "Overall, school compliance with the IPM in public schools law and regulations is high in Maryland," he said in contradiction to MPN's accusations.

School systems accused of not complying

Most Maryland school systems were at fault for violating core IPM guidelines, according to Ruth Berlin, the Executive Director of MPN. She said that violations included disobeying IPM guidelines that toxic pesticides be used as a last resort to pest problems in schools and that parents receive a proper 24-hour notice before schools use pesticides other than bait stations. Some school systems have not even informed parents that a notifying program exists. "Too many schools are not notifying as required or clearly notifying parents and employees about the registry system in the upper schools," said Berlin in an e-mail last week.

Sixty-nine percent of Maryland schools used pesticides, and eight percent used pesticides as a first response, according to the report about school compliance. Moreover, 11 percent of schools were cited as using pesticides as an emergency response to problems that did not constitute an emergency in IPM.

Results from a survey by MPN indicated that many parents and guardians were unaware of IPM, and teachers and staff were unaware that IPM mandates their receiving instruction on pesticide use. When some parents contacted schools regarding IPM, the schools said that no IPM program was necessary.

Schools without pest management plans leave themselves open to pesticide abuse, according to Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, a national organization against the misuse of pesticides. Feldman stressed the critical need for schools to eliminate pesticide use around students and to adopt pest management programs since most of Maryland's school systems are in severe violation. "I would consider any lack of compliance severe," said Feldman.

To view the MPN reports, visit the MPN web site.

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  • june on November 24, 2004
    Go varun!
  • Kevi O'Connor (View Email) on March 17, 2007 at 4:24 PM
    Editorial, Opinion

    Political Correctness could kill us…

    Pest control companies have probably saved millions of American lives, but our industry is constantly under attack from the politically-correct police. Did you know rat fleas killed over 25 million people in Europe? It was called the Black Plague, and it still exists today. Rodents carry 55 diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Rodents cause 1 in 5 fires by gnawing on wires. They destroy 20% of the world’s food supply. Rats do not belong in North America, and destroy many native species. Fifty percent (50%) of the deer mice carry the Hantavirus which can cause death.

    Roaches carry many diseases and cause many forms of asthma, especially in children.

    Gophers and squirrels create large holes in school ball fields and public parks. Some cities have stopped killing gophers and squirrels which can carry the Plague. There have been incidents where students were severely injured because of stepping into these holes, even though city officials were warned by the pest control industry not to eliminate rodenticides.

    Next time you see your local pest control technician, say thank you to him for working behind the scenes keeping ours schools, hotels, restaurants, commercial buildings, and your home clean and safe. Remember, a major outbreak could happen at anytime, and we must not let being political correct put our families in harm’s way.

    Please tell your local representatives to keep the city clean, by letting the licensed pest control operators do their jobs.

    Kevin O’Connor –President Hydrex Pest Control
    3905 State Street
    Santa Barbara Ca -93105—805-895-9410
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