María Arevalos has a simple message for parents and school officials: “Pesticides and schools are a bad combination,” she said in Spanish. “It’s something that should not happen.”
She knows from experience. She believes pesticides sprayed on school grounds once sickened her 8-year-old son, Eduardo, who has asthma. She recalled one day, when her son went to school feeling fine, and returned with nausea and no appetite.
“There is no other possibility,” said Arevalos, a member of the Fresno-based community group Latinos United for Clean Air, who has participated in pesticide awareness trainings in Sacramento and Salinas.
Arevalos spoke about the use of pesticides in schools during the group’s Clean Air, Healthy Family summit at Yokomi Elementary School May 11.
During her presentation, she encouraged parents school officials to place a greater emphasis on integrated pest management – a more healthy form of pest control that uses common sense and simple science to address pest problems, like mulching, controlling weeds, and sealing cracks.
When integrated pest management doesn’t solve the problem, she said, pesticides should be sprayed only when children are not on campus – either after the school, or on the weekend.
Arevalos’ concerns are more than the worries of an informed parent.
According to the recent report “Green Schools Within Reach,” 40 percent of reporting school districts in California continue to use the most dangerous, high-exposure methods for treating weeds and ant problems, despite the passage of the Healthy Schools Act of 2000.
Exposure to pesticides can have serious consequences for growing children. Nationwide, children ages 6-11 have the highest levels of pesticides in their bodies, compared to any other age category, according to the report, which was authored by Pesticide Watch Education Fund, Center For Environmental Health, and Californians for Pesticide Reform.
Child pesticide exposure has been linked to learning disabilities, asthma, cancer, and other serious health effects.
- Further reading on the health impacts of pesticides and chemicals:
‘Children conceived in March more likely to have austism, researchers say,’ by California Watch
- ‘Pregnant women’s exposed to pesticides have children with slightly lower IQ, studies say,’ by LA Times
- Latinas promote healthy homes, Harvesting Health
Photos by Héctor Navejas, Vida en el Valle.