With many public schools being older buildings, pest control is an often-recurring maintenance issue. However, even more than with home or industrial locations, schools present unique challenges with regard to the methods of pest control used. The near-constant presence of children on school grounds means that many conventional pesticide-based pest control solutions either can't be used, or must be used with careful regulation and monitoring. As the weather gets warmer, administrators and school facility managers will need to carefully assess and rethink their pest control solutions.
Potential health risks
Pesticides are a commonly used solution to bug infestations, but when schools and young children are involved, health concerns must be strongly considered. A recent news report from Massachusetts outlined the dangers of chemical pesticide, as a schoolyard that was treated with chemical pesticide in 2007 and 2008 was being tested for traces of the chemicals six to seven years later.
The Environmental Protection Agency stated that children are of particular risk of health concerns related to pest control chemicals due to their still-developing bodies and organs, and children playing outside in the dirt find themselves at significantly increased risk of exposure to such chemicals. CBS News even reported that pregnant women who are exposed to chemical pesticides are at substantially higher risk of giving birth to a child with autism.
Managing pest control
The challenge facing school facility managers is how to balance the need for pest control with the very real safety concerns many chemicals present. The EPA suggested what is known as an Integrated Pest Management system. Such a strategy is a more holistic pest control solution that doesn't rely solely on chemical methods - strategies such as reducing and eliminating sources of open food that can attract bugs, or uncovering possible sources of shelter that pests tend to flock to. Such IPM strategies are not only safer and more environmentally friendly, they also carry the added benefit of reduced cost for school districts to implement them.
The EPA also urges school districts to be more careful with managing the chemical solutions that they do implement. Proper inventory management can help keep track of the chemicals on the premises and ensure that everything is properly labeled. Proper training in the handling, use, storage and disposal of chemicals is also essential to prevent misuse-related spills or accidents that can lead to injury.