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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Schools: Reasons for Change

Covers resources related to integrated pest management in K-12 schools.

Why Implement IPM?

School administrators must balance risks associated with uncontrolled pest infestations and those linked with pest control. Uncontrolled wasp or hornet nests pose imminent threats for children sensitive to stings. Cockroach infestations and their subsequent waste are suspected asthma triggers. Meanwhile, schools must ensure that students and staff are not at risk from pesticide exposure.

Schools need to control pests in order to prevent health risks and disruptions. IPM is a systematic strategy for solving pesticide problems in school environments that maximizes public safety and minimizes environmental health risks. Implementing IPM in schools improves student and public health. IPM also minimized environmental health, safety, and regulatory concerns by reducing the use of hazardous chemicals.

A growing body of scientific knowledge demonstrates that children may suffer disproportionately from environmental health risks and safety risks. These risks arise because children's neurological, immunological, digestive, and other bodily systems are still developing; children eat more food, drink more fluids, and breathe more air in proportion to their body weight than adults; children's size and weight may diminish their protection from standard safety features; and children's behavior patterns may make them more susceptible to accidents because they are less able to protect themselves." (Executive Order 13045 -- Protection of Children From Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks, 1997)

Pesticides include substances that are designed to repel, control, and/or kill all pests and include disinfectants, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, and wood preservatives. Primary pests of concern are mold, insects, rodents, and weeds. Many of these pesticides are linked to long-term health problems (cancer, endocrine disruption, and neurological disorders). Control methods often rely upon poisons that are not effective by themselves for long-term management of pests and are hazardous to people, pets, and other animals.

Other incentives for transitioning to IPM include:

  • Budgetary savings and reallocation of funds to education
  • Energy efficiency, which is a complementary benefit of IPM
  • Parental concerns
  • Improved productivity of students and teaching staff, including less missed time and work days
  • Legal (regulatory) requirements mandated by state and local governments
  • Increasing liability risks associated with health issues.

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