Traditional pest management techniques in schools, homes and offices call for spraying pesticides, which contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans. School buildings are usually vacated to spray and then clean the affected area. Even though students, faculty and other staff may not be present at the time of the pesticide use, the harmful chemical compounds live in the building's structure and furnishings long after the initial spray. Pesticides pose a greater risk to children than adults, due to their developing immune systems. The effects of exposure to pesticides can have not only immediate symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and drowsiness but also long-term negative health effects.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the use of alternative methods to relieve school buildings and campuses of infestations. Some IPM methods include:
Habitat modification. Change the structure or landscape design of your school to keep pests out. Also take a look at your construction and sanitation practices. Schools can change their environments by adding native, drought-tolerant vegetation to the landscape, moving troublesome plants away from buildings or altering structures for increased ventilation
Physical treatment. Utilize vacuums, traps, barriers and currents to fight against pests. These types of treatments do not use chemicals for the elimination of pests. Most effective with smaller pests, flushing out with air or water or sucking the pests out of the infected area by creating a vacuum can also be effective depending on the treated area and pests responsible.
Biological treatment. Use augmentation and importation methods. Augmentation is the rearing and timely release of beneficial organisms that naturally aid in the management and control of the pest species. By introducing non-native species to the infected area, pests can be deterred. However, use an expert to execute this strategy in order to avoid the spread of the imported plants.
Minimal chemical usage. Rather than treating a large area, utilize spot treatments with more eco-conscious pest controllers.
Proper ventilation. If pesticides are necessary, effectively ventilate the structures treated before allowing students and staff to use them.
EPA Recommended Strategies for Using IPM
- The problem or pest is identified before taking action.
- Vegetation, shrubs and wood mulch should be kept at least one foot away from structures.
- Cracks and crevices in walls, floors and pavement are sealed.
- Lockers and desks are emptied and thoroughly cleaned at least twice yearly.
- Food-contaminated dishes, utensils, surfaces are cleaned by the end of each day.
- Garbage cans and dumpsters are cleaned regularly.
- Litter is collected and disposed of properly at least once a week.
- Fertilizers are applied several times (e.g. spring, summer, fall) during the year, rather than one heavy application.
- If pesticides are necessary, use spot treatments rather than area-wide applications.