Washington Toxics Coalition, September 28, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: The Seattle School Board has adopted a precautionary policy for pest management, aiming to minimize exposure of students and staff to toxic chemicals.]

By Angela Storey

SEATTLE -- Last week [September 21, 2005], the Seattle School Board unanimously adopted a cutting-edge policy to protect students from exposure to hazardous pesticides at school. The Seattle School District is now the largest district in the state to eliminate uses of the most toxic pesticides.

"Seattle Public Schools takes our commitment to the health of our students, staff, and the planet very seriously," said district Board President Dr. Brita Butler-Wall, who pushed for adoption of the policy. "We have embraced the concept of healthy learning environments through a strong policy preventing possible exposure to toxic chemicals such as pesticides."

The policy responds to growing evidence that pesticides can interfere with children's ability to learn and cause other serious health problems. Under the new policy, pesticides linked to cancer, nervous system damage, and other health risks will be avoided.

The policy is a result of years of work by dedicated school district employees, board members, and community members. A Community Advisory Committee including district staff members, parents, doctors, and experts drafted the policy recommendations.

The policy and procedures include:

* Use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) at all school sites, with a focus on pest prevention and use of only least-toxic pesticides.

* Clear criteria for evaluating pesticides that eliminates the use of pesticides that can contribute to cancer, nervous system damage, reproductive harm, hormone disruption, or damage to the environment. Exceptions to the criteria are evaluated for emergencies or persistent problems.

* Prior notification of pesticide use to all parents and staff members when the law requires, and an expanded posting system.

* Creation of an on-going IPM committee to assist with implementation, consisting of district staff and community members.

"The Seattle School District has taken a tremendous step forward by drawing the line and saying toxic pesticides don't belong in our schools," said Angela Storey, healthy schools coordinator for the Washington Toxics Coalition, and chair of the Community Advisory Committee that drafted the policy proposal. "Pest problems can be prevented and solved without compromising the health of our children or our environment."

Seattle joins several other districts in Washington with strong pesticide-reduction policies, including the Vancouver, Bainbridge Island, and Sedro-Woolley districts. The policy will now go into effect at all of Seattle's 100 sites.


The Washington Toxics Coalition is a 501(c)3 non-profit that protects public health and the environment by eliminating toxic pollution.