Naturally Rockford: Illinois parents urge schools to start year without toxic pesticides

State joins nationwide effort to protect schoolchildren

Chicago—Parents called on Illinois school districts to start the school year without the use of toxic pesticides linked to childhood diseases. Scientific research links pesticide exposure to cancer, neurological problems, learning disabilities, asthma and other chemical-induced illnesses. Amid growing concern about children’s health, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) introduced federal legislation, similar to the Illinois laws, designed to protect the nation’s children from pesticides in schools.

Illinois’ law, passed in 1999, protects schoolchildren from pesticides. It was one of the first of its kind calling for integrated pest management (IPM), a proven method of pest control that emphasizes simple, inexpensive prevention practices that cause the least harm to people and the environment. Though the law has been on the books for more than six years, many schools are still not in compliance due to the lack of state-sponsored IPM education programs for school administrators. Parents can protect their children’s health by asking their schools to comply fully with Illinois law.

Illinois parents are participating in a nationwide effort, coordinated by the national public health advocacy organization, Beyond Pesticides and the Illinois-based organization, Safer Pest Control Project to increase awareness about pesticides. Parents can deliver a postcard to their school principal or nurse that signals their concern for this issue. Postcards are available on line at or by mail at 312-641-5575.

“Toxic pesticides have no place in schools,” said Rachel Rosenberg, executive director of Safer Pest Control Project (SPCP). “There are safer methods for controlling pests. Parents need to be aware of the law and their school’s pest control policy. The postcard is one way to bring greater attention to the issue.”

In July of this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study that confirmed that pesticide exposure at schools causes illness in students and employees. Also in July, the Centers for Disease Control released the Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals including new data showing widespread exposure to commonly used synthetic pyrethroid pesticides, with more than 50 percent of the population carrying residue in their bodies.

Safer Pest Control Project is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the health risks and environmental impacts of pesticides and promoting safer alternatives throughout Illinois. Safer Pest Control Project is a member of the School Pesticide Reform Coalition (SPRC) as are the groups participating in this nationwide action. SPRC is a national network of 26 environmental health groups in 20 states that advocates for every child’s and school employee’s right to an environmentally healthy school. The Coalition works to protect children’s and the general public’s health by supporting nationwide grassroots action and focusing local, state and national attention on eliminating school pesticide use.

Safer Pest Control Project is located in Chicago. Web site address is

From the Oct. 5-11, 2005, issue

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