NEWS- Pesticide poison: Area schools behind the times in pest control

Albemarle County is in the process of converting all 26 of its schools, including Stone Robinson Elementary (shown here), to an "integrated pest management plan."

There's no question that certain health ailments have soared in frequency over the past decade. The incidence of asthma, allergies, and autism are at an all-time high in children, according to numerous medical studies, and many doctors are pointing to the link between chemical pesticides and such health problems.

Nationally, some states have banned the use of pesticides in schools, and in Virginia– at the urging of the Virginia Department of Education and the Department of Environmental Quality– nearly two dozen school systems have adopted "integrated pest management" plans, in which pesticides are used only as a last resort. 

Two school systems are noticeably missing from that list, however, and environmental advocates are bugging them to change that.

"Our kids are really sick today," says Jackie Lombardo, who's affiliated with both the advocacy nonprofit Friend and Advocates for Children, Teachers and Schools as well as the Piedmont branch of the Sierra Club. Lombardo cites the monthly scheduled applications of pesticides at Charlottesville and Albemarle County schools as troubling, given evidence of the dangers such exposures pose. "We need to stop doing this," she says.

All three chemicals commonly applied in local schools are ranked toxic on the pollutant information website Suspend SC is a neurotoxin; Siege Gel affects the reproductive system and might cause cancer; and a third– the roach killer Maxforce– also affects the reproductive system and is a developmental toxicant, affecting prenatal development.

Dr. Eric Rydland, a local pediatrician who specializes in the holistic treatment of ADHD and autism, says children are far more susceptible to chemical exposure than adults because they are growing and their bodies more readily absorb toxicants.

Most of the chemicals used in pesticides are fat soluble, he says, so when a child is exposed, the chemical is stored in fatty tissue– including the brain– rather than processed and expelled. Repeated exposure can lead to a build-up, so even if there is no immediate adverse effect in the child, health could be impaired later in life.

"The main thing we're seeing in children is an ever increasing rate of neurologic problems," says Rydland. The incidence of ADHD, he says, has reached 9 or 10 percent of children, while autism, often cited as affecting 1 in 166 children, may now be even more frequent: 1 in 70, particularly in boys, he says. 

Despite such fearsome statistics, is it really fair to blame everything on pesticides? Other scientific studies have blamed the increase in health disorders on things such as mercury-laced vaccines and widespread use of plastics. 

According to Intrastate Pest Control, the Charlottesville company contracted to apply pesticides in the local schools, the chemicals are not placed in areas where children can easily come in contact with them.

"We do some crack and crevice treatment in kitchen areas," says Intrastate's Greg Wells, noting that sprays are avoided and no pesticides are used in classrooms unless a specific infestation exists that requires treatment.

Wells says even though the school systems are not officially using an integrated pest management approach, Intrastate often does not apply pesticides at its monthly visits, but rather just inspects the sites for signs of problems.

Even using chemicals sparingly may not be enough of a precaution to protect children entirely, according to a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That study suggests pesticide poisoning in schools happens even when best practices are followed. 

The study analyzed 2,593 reported pesticide poisonings in schools and childcare centers between 1998 and 2002, and reported disturbing trends: the incidence of poisonings increased significantly from 1998 to 2002; almost a third of the poisonings resulted from drifting chemicals from off-site applications; and the chemicals used to clean work areas and kill insects were the most frequent source of poisonings.

The study concluded that its findings "should be considered low estimates of the magnitude of the problem because many cases of pesticide poisoning are likely not reported to surveillance systems and poison control centers."

One local school that has taken such warnings to heart is the Charlottesville Waldorf School.

According to Waldorf administrator Alice Gore, the school typically does not use chemicals for pest or weed prevention. But even the self-dubbed "greenest school in America" can't claim to be entirely chemical free.

"We had a headlice infestation, and we had to spray a little bit to get rid of them," she says. "It's not a routine thing."

At a small private school like Waldorf, staying pesticide-free may be simpler than in a large public school system, but that hasn't stopped other cities from pushing for an "integrated pest management plan."

Lynchburg city schools have stopped regular pesticide application over the past several years, and facilities director Don Floyd reports "It's going well." Still, he says, it's not easy. "It takes everybody in the school system to do this, because it all relies on identification of what's going on, being proactive, taking appropriate measures. We try to use a lot of noninvasive measures and move up the ladder if necessary."

Despite the monthly pesticide applications in Charlottesville and Albemarle schools this year, it seems Albemarle County will soon achieve "integrated pest management" status. According to Lindsay Check, environmental compliance manager for the county schools, Albemarle has, in fact, already converted Agnor Hurt Elementary to an integrated model and is planning to switch one school every two weeks.

Last week, Intrastate and the county co-sponsored a day-long training seminar in integrated pest management. Albemarle sent dozens of cafeteria and sanitation staffers, says Check, who hopes all 26 county schools will have transitioned by the end of the year.

Charlottesville City schools may take a bit longer. According to spokesperson Cass Cannon, the city sent several of its facilities managers to the county's training seminar and is considering the pros and cons of the switch.

Wells acknowledges that integrated pest management is more expensive than traditional preventive spraying because the inspections and record keeping are labor intensive, but he doubts that will affect the city's decision.

"We haven't gotten any feel from city or county that cost would make their decision," he says.



Long overdue for change, why take the chance when safer alternative methods are available?

Seems like a no -brainer.

I wish to commend Ms. Lombardo for her tireless efforts in promoting non-toxic ways to deal with the school environment. We must continue to reduce the daily chemical exposures that our children have in order to preserve their health for years to come.

I am all for safe use of pesticides ONLY when needed but I would require and expect "integrated pest management" to be something Intrastate Pest Control is able to provide. If they can't, then the County needs to shop around for a company that can.

Does the county really need to use education dollars to monitor roach and ant control with Environmental Compliance Managers?

If this REALLY is such a major issue and health threat why is the county taking months to address this?

Will the county pay to test all children for contamination? If not, how serious is this?

For some reason this sounds like alot of hype for something that is probably not affecting many if anyone. How does pesticide use at home affect our children? Will "integrated pest management" be used there too?

Who comes up with these ideas anyway? I worry more about people driving with cell phones than this phobic pesticide use.

How to kill pests without killing yourself or the earth......

There are about 50 to 60 million insect species on earth - we have named only about 1 million and there are only about 1 thousand pest species - already over 50% of these thousand pests are already resistant to our volatile, dangerous, synthetic pesticide POISONS. We accidentally lose about 25,000 to 100,000 species of insects, plants and animals every year due to "man's footprint". But, after poisoning the entire world and contaminating every living thing for over 60 years with these dangerous and ineffective pesticide POISONS we have not even controlled much less eliminated even one pest species and every year we use/misuse more and more pesticide POISONS to try to "keep up"! Even with all of this expensive and unnecessary pollution - we lose more and more crops and lives to these thousand pests every year.

We are losing the war against these thousand pests mainly because we insist on using only synthetic pesticide POISONS and fertilizers There has been a severe "knowledge drought" - a worldwide decline in agricultural R&D, especially in production research and safe, more effective pest control since the advent of synthetic pesticide POISONS and fertilizers. Today we are like lemmings running to the sea insisting that is the "right way". The greatest challenge facing humanity this century is the necessity for us to double our global food production with less land, less water, less nutrients, less science, frequent droughts, more and more contamination and ever-increasing pest damage.

National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24,2007 was created to highlight the dangers of poisoning and how to prevent it. One study shows that about 70,000 children in the USA were involved in common household pesticide-related (acute) poisonings or exposures in 2004. At least two peer-reviewed studies have described associations between autism rates and pesticides (D'Amelio et al 2005; Roberts EM et al 2007 in EHP). It is estimated that 300,000 farm workers suffer acute pesticide poisoning each year just in the United States - No one is checking chronic contamination.
In order to try to help "stem the tide", I have just finished re-writing my IPM encyclopedia entitled: THE BEST CONTROL II, that contains over 2,800 safe and far more effective alternatives to pesticide POISONS. This latest copyrighted work is about 1,800 pages in length and is now being updated at my new website at .

This new website at has been basically updated; all we have left to update is Chapter 39 and to renumber the pages. All of these copyrighted items are free for you to read and/or download. There is simply no need to POISON yourself or your family or to have any pest problems.

Stephen L. Tvedten
2530 Hayes Street
Marne, Michigan 49435
"An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come." --Victor Hugo

What you say sounds nice and bold but you really offer no alternative other than handpicking pest off plants which I think even you might think is ridiculous. Sure pesticides and fertilizers are abused and that needs to be corrected but to say weak solutions are the answer is not the answer. This organic movement may sound nice but how practical is it really and who has died from eating an inorganic apple anyway? Name one person an I will convert to all organic.

I think the food served to our obese children is MORE of a health risk than a roachmotel under a shelf.

Again this sounds like county hype to justify positions and expense sorta like the "greenroof". lol

Thanks to Ms. Lombardo for highlighting this issue.

Although I'm sure no one plans to expose children in our elementary school to pesticides, there is incidental exposure, repeatedly, when school cafeterias are sprayed with Deltamethrin every single month.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County schools are way behind the times on this. Norfolk and No. Va. school systems have used IPM for years.

Why would you risk exposing children to neurotoxins at all when doctors know that children are at much greater risk from exposure than adults? You, as an adult, are free to do as you wish, but adults are responsible for protecting kids from harm. I might also mention that any teachers or cafeteria workers who are pregnant are likewise in grave danger of accidentally exposing their children in utero to dangerous chemicals.

IPM should be used in all of our schools as a matter of course.

"According to Waldorf administrator Alice Gore, the school typically does not use chemicals for pest or weed prevention. But even the self-dubbed "greenest school in America" can't claim to be entirely chemical free.

"We had a headlice infestation, and we had to spray a little bit to get rid of them," she says. "It's not a routine thing."

This statement by the school administrator shows just how uniformed many are regarding pesticides and children.

There is no reason to spray anything where lice are concerned.

I commend all that are working hard to protect our children from pesticides in schools, and parent's need to be educated also regarding using pesticides in the home.

I do not hand pick bugs off plants, I have thousands of safe and far more effective alternatives to dangerous POISONS that have removed all pests inside and outside in many hundreds of schools...... After 45 years in pest control, I have just finished re-writing my free IPM encyclopedia entitled: THE BEST CONTROL II, that contains over 2,800 safe and far more effective alternatives to pesticide POISONS. This latest copyrighted work is free and about 1,800 pages in length and is now being updated at my new website at . There is simply no need to POISON yourself or your school or to have any pest problems.

Stephen L. Tvedten

A lot of comments already, but it's important to remember that no matter who you are, we all use "POISONS" every day. In fact it would be hard to point out any chemical compound in our lives (modern or historic) that is not poisonous in some amount. I'll wager that nearly every child in Virginia gets to school in vehicles powered by gasoline, a highly toxic petrochemical that is also a known carcinogen. It's the chance of exposure (relatively low for passengers) that makes the toxicity of gasoline a minor issue for most people. Two of the pesticides mentioned in the article (Seige and Maxforce) are ingredients in cockroach baits, a very low risk type of pesticide formulation with little chance of exposure to children. Routine spray applications (without regard to whether there is an active insect problem or not), on the other hand, is one practice that we can and should do without.

Let's not add another uneccessary poison to our kids! The schools just handed pest control responsibilities over to a for-profit company to take care of - not good. That might be a conflict of interest! I'm so glad this was brought out into the open. Why were we never notified anyway when the Pesticide Board thought we needed to know? I had no idea this was going on at all. And maybe that's just the point. Pesticides are BAD news. You can be sure, I'm going to ask questions from now on.

So our kids are "sicker than ever" and you think it's from pesticides? Hows about them twinkies, potato chips, ho hos , coke, pepsi, mountain dew and starbucks???? Think those poisons might be having an effect?

I ain't too educated but I ain't never seen a pesticide that makes kids FAT.

Copy and paste for another view on pesticides and obesity:

I have a website that might be of interest to you and your readers. The site is: The site is dedicated to one thing, the prevention of pests. It includes a system of pest prevention requiring no products other than the normal home, lawn, and landscape tools. It is laid out in a simple, easy to follow format. Each page leads naturally to the next step.

Just a quote from the site:

"There is a better form of pest control than commercial chemicals. There is an even a better method of dealing with bugs and weeds than the non commercial, non toxic, natural products. This method incorporates the least toxic, really, non toxic means of protecting your lawn, garden, landscape, home, and family. Even better, it will cut down the size of your carbon footprint. No energy wasted on packaging, shipping, labeling, no manufacturing, This is truly the greenest alternative, to even the green alternatives to commercial chemical pesticides, and it is easily within your reach! The instructions on how to do it are right here on this site, so keep reading, and make your environment a safer place!"


If we stop spraying pesticides to keep school kitchen's free of roaches and insects, think about what it would do to school lunches. How many kids would get sick of what from increased bug infestations?

Many schools have banned pesticides, are less kids getting sick there? Is there evidence that it is helping? I think we should varify that this is working and not an unfounded scare before continuing.

Increased bug infestations? No way! Albemarle County Public Schools, in just the last 8 months alone, stopped over 200 routine pesticide applications inside schools buildings. That's great news! And...that's a lot of pesticides! But the best news is...there was not one single pest infestation, demonstrating pesticides in schools are unnecessary.

No one is saying children are sick because of pesticides - health is way too complicated to make a simple statement like that. Asthma and learning disabilities are epidemic and no one knows why. But...
if asthma rates are up, remove the asthmagens. If neurological problems like ADHD are up, remove the neurotoxins. If childhood cancer rates are up, remove the carcinogens... You get the picture!

F.A.C.T.S. would like to personally invite you
to help Albemarle County lead the way with Pesticide Free Zones for our water, our wildlife and our children!

Please mark your calendars to attend:

1. The July 10th School Board meeting where Pesticide Free Zones for schools will be deliberated.

If you can't make the meetings, please email your opinion!
A. AC Board of Supervisors
B. AC School Board
C. Diane Behrens, Director School Building Services
(Please CC us at )

Why are Pesticide Free Zones important
for Albemarle County?

Health problems among children are up dramatically in the last twenty years. According to VA Dept of Education student health statistics, 1 in every 6 students enrolled in Albemarle County Public Schools today is also enrolled in Special Ed for a learning disability, a developmental disability or an emotional disorder. And 1 in every 8 students in ACPSs today reports having a permanent, lifelong health condition such as asthma, a food allergy or a seizure disorder. No one knows why.

Drug Free Zones and Smoke Free Zones in schools are smart policies that protect children based on science. As unbelievable as it sounds, scientists once believed smoking was healthy! We now know even low levels of exposure to smoking, like second hand smoke, is harmful. Overwhelming science today links pesticides with asthma, learning disabilities and some cancers like leukemia and breast cancer, even at very low levels.

Pesticides also end up in our drinking water and waterways. Our Shenandoah River is listed as one of the 10 most endangered waterways. Reports of fish kills increase and scientists continue to collect samples of chemicals, including pesticides, from the water.

In the last eight months alone, ACPS stopped 200 routine pesticide applications inside the school buildings and no pest infestations have occurred, demonstrating these pesticides are unnecessary. While excellent progress has been made, AC still considers some risk from neurotoxic pesticides acceptable for fighting ants and spiders in schools. With so many children already having health problems, risk in any amount is no longer acceptable, especially when that risk is unnecessary.

Pesticide Free Zones are an urgent public health need and schools and local governments around the country are responding by making their buildings and grounds Pesticide Free Zones. We are confident that AC can learn to fight ants and spiders without neurotoxins.

Be sure your opinion is heard, along with the opinion of Albemarle County officials, so you can help decide if risk is tolerable for you, your child and our community.

We hope to see you there!

Ms. Stuart is right, the pesticides used in our school systems (and everywhere else, for that matter) are designed to kill. They wouldn't be effective if they weren't, after all. However, the funny thing about poison is that it has to be present in the system to do any harm.

Suspend is a spray, it's true. But it's also highly concentrated; up to one OUNCE is mixed in one GALLON of pure water. In other words, any pesticide that happens to become evaporated into the air is about 98.5% pure water vapor.

Siege and Maxforce are both gels mixed at the company. They have the consistency of toothpaste, and a small line is placed in very discreet spots. At no point does any part of these pesticides become airborn. To become contaminated, a child would have to literally ingest them.

All of the pesticides mentioned are toxic by body weight. It's the same as any other drug or toxin -- the more a person weighs, the more of a drug he has to take for it to work, or the more of a toxin he has to take in for it to affect him. Worrisome, I agree, when you compare a 150 lbs adult to a 40 lbs child ... until you remember that the amount of pesticides put down are not made to harm a 40 lbs child, but are made to harm a 0.006613 lbs insect (0.006613 lbs = 3 grams, the weight of the average cockroach). The child, 40 lbs or even smaller, would have to injest huge quantities of these pesticides to be bothered by them at all.

Now consider the harm of NOT applying pesticides. Two of the mentioned pesticides, Siege and Maxforce, are used to keep cockroach populations under control. The German Cockroach (latin Blattella germanica, the most common cockroach in the Charlottesville area) has been known to carry tuberculosis, cholera, leprosy, dysentery, and typhoid, not to mention bacteria such as salmonella, and just about any virus you can think of. The house fly has been associated with over 100 types of pathogens, including cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and diarrhea. And I doubt if anyone isn't familiar with the dangers associated with mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, etc.

I'd also like to repeat what Mike, above, pointed out: that you would be hard-pressed to find a single American that doesn't use "poisons" in their everyday life and thinks nothing of it. You probably have cleaners in your home that are far more deadly than any pesticide still in modern usage. And, like John, I would ask that any similar articles in the future also give us facts -- such as how much of these pesticides a child must come into contact with to be dangerous vs. how much is used in the average application, and how many cases a year of contamination are unfailingly blamed on pesticide and not some other factor.