What is Integrated Pest Management?

Integrated Pest Management 101

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) revolves around six essential components: monitoring, recordkeeping, action levels, prevention, tactics criteria, and evaluation.
IPM is a program that reduces or eliminates the use of pesticides in order to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to harmful chemicals.

Over-reliance on pesticides exposes children and staff to dangerous chemicals. School IPM is a powerful tool for addressing these challenges. In fact, schools transitioning to IPM have reduced pest complaints and pesticide use by over 70%!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends school IPM as a proven approach for creating healthy, safe spaces for students and staff.

Who regulates IPM programs in Pennsylvania? What are schools required to do?

School districts, intermediate units, area vocational-technical schools, and childcare centers are considered public places. As such, they are required by state law (Act 36 of 2002) to develop an IPM plan. The Pennsylvania IPM Program is administered by the Penn State Extension. 

School IPM requirements are enforced by the Health and Safety program of the Department of Agriculture (PDA). This program manages the registration of pesticide products as well as the certification of pesticide applicators.  There are regional PDA offices that manage pesticide applicator licenses – and only licensed applicators are allowed to spray pesticides on school grounds. In addition, schools are required to post clear signage on school grounds and communicate with the school community about the dates of pesticide application (at least 72 hours before application is scheduled to begin).

What does the research say about pesticides and children’s health?

Pesticides can cause short and long term health risks. Exposure can lead to pesticide poisoning, which is under-diagnosed in the U.S. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, about 10,000 children experience pesticide poisoning each year. Nationally, children between 6-11 years are found to have higher levels of pesticide residue in their bodies than any other group of people.

Of the 40 most commonly used pesticides in schools, 28 are known carcinogens, 14 are linked with
endocrine disruption, and 26 could lead to adverse reproductive effects. Recent research shows the use of RoundUp, a popular pesticide containing glyphosate, is becoming more and more common in schools. The World Health Organization declared in 2015 that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.

What is the Hypersensitivity Registry and how do I sign myself/my child/my family members up?

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) maintains a registry of individuals
hypersensitive to pesticides. It is a listing of locations for people who have been verified by a
physician to be excessively or abnormally sensitive to pesticides. These hypersensitive individuals
may request to have listings of their home, place of employment, school (if a student), and vacation
home placed in the Registry.

Once you are listed in the Registry, pesticide businesses are required to make notifications to you
12 to 72 hours in advance of any pesticide application to an attached structure or an outdoor above
ground application that they may make within 500 feet of any location that you have listed in the
Registry. The notification may be made by speaking to an adult through personal contact, by
telephone contact, leaving a message on your answering device, by certified mail, by posting a
notice on the front door at the listed location or speaking to an adult at the alternate phone number
you listed in the Registry.
The business must provide you their: business name, address, telephone number, the
pesticide brand name and common name (if available), EPA Registration number of the pesticide,
the location of the application and the proposed date and time of the application. The proposed
application time may not exceed a 24-hour period.

Obtain an application, which is available online, from your local
pesticide businesses, or by contacting any PDA Office (listed on the back). Make arrangements with
someone to be your alternate contact point. This person must be willing to receive calls when
applicators cannot contact you directly and forward the information on to you.

What else can I do as a concerned parent/teacher/student/school administrator/community member?

Meet with your school’s PTA and administrative office to ask about their IPM policies. PA state regulations require schools to implement IPM plans and alert parents and staff of chemical pesticide application prior to use. Request your school district to list the pest management company they use when pesticide application is required, and have them publicly share a list of pesticides to be used prior to application.

Work with your local Parent Teacher Association and school administration office to encourage your school to adopt a “no pesticides” policy for school grounds and help choose safer alternatives for pesticides when pesticides must be used.

Ensure that staff applying pesticides in your school are licensed by the state of PA. IPM plans often fail because school staff are not properly educated on the purpose and benefits of IPM strategies as opposed to pesticides.

Healthy Schools PA is proud to offer free technical assistance and training to school districts who want to create stronger IPM programs in their schools or child care centers. Contact us at info@healthyschoolspa.org if you are interested in learning more!