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Oregon House passes pest management for schools

SALEM - The Oregon House of Representatives today approved SB 637, a legislative measure billed as protecting children from exposure to pesticides in Oregon's schools. Already passed in the Oregon Senate, the House vote of 41-14 now sends the bill to the Senate for a concurrence vote, then to Governor Ted Kulongoski for signing into law. The law will require public and private Oregon K-12 schools and community colleges to adopt integrated pest management plans.

The Oregon Environmental Council said the legislature's integrated pest management bill is an effective and environmentally sensitive way to control pests and weeds, resulting in effective suppression of pest populations while minimizing human health and environmental hazards. It is a safer and often less costly option for pest management, using common sense strategies to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in buildings and grounds.

Pesticides commonly used in Oregon schools have been associated with a number of health problems including cancer, reproductive problems, and nervous system damage. According to the OEC, children can be exposed to pesticides in school settings by playing on floors, lawns, and play areas, eating pesticide-treated foods or by handling treated pets. SB637 bill addresses preventable sources of these potential exposures.

The bill also authorizes governing bodies to adopt, improve or continue any integrated pest management plan that provides protection against pesticide exposure equal to or greater than protections required by the bill. Additionally, the bill makes public pesticide applicator license requirements applicable to pesticide applications at school campuses.

"We applaud both chambers for recognizing the importance of this issue and supporting common-sense strategies to protect the health of the school children in our state," said Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis MPH, PhD, program director at the Oregon Environmental Council.

"The use of integrated pest management can help reduce pesticide exposures and also provide additional benefits by reducing pests and their associated allergens, possibly reducing asthma triggers. Many schools practicing integrated pest management have documented improved pest management, cost savings, and reductions in pesticide applications by as much as 90 per cent," said Senator Suzanne Bonamici - D-NE Washington/NW Multnomah Counties. "Senate Bill 637 improves student health and achievement with cost-effective pest management policies for schools."

The Oregon Environmental Council was joined by a diverse group of organizations who support Integrated Pest Management in Schools through SB 637:

AFT-Oregon, American Lung Association in Oregon, Children First for Oregon, Community Health Partnership, Healthy Kids Learn Better Coalition, Oregon Center for Environmental Health, Nurse Practitioners of Oregon, Oregon Education Association, Oregon Nurses Association, Oregon Public Health Association, Oregon School Employees Association, Oregon Toxics Alliance, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Chapter, Project: Children, SEIU-Local 503 and others.