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Parents getting first report of school toxins

The Associated Press
Wednesday August 22, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Children heading back to California public schools this fall will be bringing home something new in their backpacks – a list of all the pesticides likely to be used at the schools during the new school year. 

A new state law that takes effect with the 2001-2002 school year that is just beginning requires schools to give parents written notification of all the pesticides they plan to use. 

“Toxics and pesticides don’t mix. I know parents will use this information to learn about how to protect their kids from the dangers of pesticides,” says Assemblyman Kevin Shelley, D-San Francisco, author of the 2000 law. 

Shelley and groups that backed the law are holding news conferences Wednesday in Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, Long Beach, Oakland, Riverside, San Diego, San Jose and Santa Barbara to talk about the new law. They are releasing a kit to help parents, students and school staff understand it. 

The California Public Interest Research Group did two studies of pesticides used in schools and found that most regularly used highly toxic chemicals but no law required them to keep records or notify parents. 

“It was really hard to figure out where they were using them,” said CalPIRG attorney and toxics program director Teri Olle. Some places the chemicals were used were in kitchens and classrooms to kill bugs and on playgrounds and lawns to combat weeds. 

The new law requires school districts to notify parents annually what pesticides they intend to use during the following year. Parents must be told they can register to be notified 72 hours before all pesticide applications. 

Districts must also post notices at entrances to school areas treated with pesticides 24 hours before and 72 hours after application. They must keep records of pesticide use for four years. 

In addition, the law requires the state Department of Pesticide Regulation to train interested school personnel in less-toxic pest control methods known as integrated pest management. The department is also supposed to distribute a manual to schools and maintain an Internet site with IPM information. The department is still working on some of that information. 

IPM methods can include using mulch and native grasses to control weeds or using traps and improved cleanliness and storage to discourage cockroaches or rats. 

Olle of CalPIRG said the real goal of the law is to persuade school districts to use fewer toxic chemicals around children. One way is to encourage parents to seek the 72-hour notice for every spraying. 

“Our hope is really if schools have to send home notices to 200 parents every time they spray a pesticide, maybe they will say, ’We should do this some other way,”’ she said. 

On the Net: 

Read the law, AB2260 of 2000, at 

Read about the Healthy Schools program and the kit at 

Look at the DPR’s site: