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January 10, 2013

Another View: Maine schools work hard to protect kids from pesticides

By Henry Jennings

As "Concern over pesticide use at schools rises" (Jan. 1) exemplifies, the impact of pesticides on human health is understandably an important topic. Fortunately, Maine policymakers and professional staff have been working for years to protect the public from both pests and pesticide exposure with some of the strictest pesticide laws in the country. Protecting children is always the top priority.

Maine has had a school pesticide law since 2003. Its cornerstone relies on one fundamental principle: if there is no human exposure to pesticides, then there is no risk.

Vigorously applying this principle allows Maine schools to benefit from a pest-free environment without risking children's health. A key outcome of the law is that pesticides are not used on school grounds when students are present. Rather, they are almost always applied during long school vacations.

The pesticide law requires Maine's schools to use proven strategies and a systematic approach to keep children as safe as possible from both pests and pesticides. This approach relies primarily on nonpesticidal means for combating pests, such as trapping and sanitation, as well as horticultural practices fostering good plant health.

The law only allows pesticide use in ways that minimize any chance of human exposure, and only by trained, licensed professionals. Visits by state inspectors and a strong education program help ensure strict adherence to the law's requirements.

Maine continues to work on improving protection of our school children by reassessing school practices and strengthening the law. An updated rule that should go into effect this year requires additional training of school personnel and provides better guidance on lawn care. To learn more about pesticide use in Maine schools, go to www.thinkfirstspraylast.org/schoolipm/.

Henry Jennings is the director of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control in Augusta.





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