School IPM: Children's Environmental Health Program

Protect and Enhance the Nation's Natural Resource Base and Environment
Research Year: 
2004
Issue: 

Most schools in Phoenix and elsewhere in Arizona routinely spray their facilities with pesticides to control an assortment of fire ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes and bark scorpions. Each month the treatments are repeated as part of an outdated pest prevention program that doesn't work. Unacceptable pest populations remain a problem in these schools. At the same time, while the poisons are applied and reapplied, parents pull their children out of school for a day or two each month to avoid pesticide exposure.

Description of Action: 

An integrated pest management program (IPM) for schools in Arizona began in 2000 and has continued to expand for the past four years. It is now part of a national and international environmental health effort connecting school districts in Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, Utah, Washington, and Sonora, Mexico.

Three schools in the Kyrene School District in metropolitan Phoenix were chosen for a pilot IPM project in 2000 to control pests while avoiding reliance on chemical pesticides. A team of specialists, including University of Arizona entomologists, designed a program based on the Monroe IPM Model, originally developed by Indiana University professor Marc Lame. He had done a pilot study in the Midwest and wanted to try a similar program in the desert Southwest.

The schools concentrated their efforts (and capital resources) on identifying the pests, finding where they came from, and preventing their entry into buildings. The custodial and kitchen staffs also were mobilized to learn how to discourage pests. All of the openings around pipes and conduits were sealed, crawl spaces closed off, and drains and building slabs repaired to inhibit cockroaches. Trees were trimmed back and birds were encouraged to roost where their droppings wouldn’t contaminate walkways and other high-traffic areas. The Kyrene School District, observing the benefits of a good IPM program, adopted the IPM philosophy and received STAR Certification (National IPM Institute) for practicing a great program district-wide.

In 2001 a pilot program began on The Navajo Nation in three Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. The main pest issues at the sites included rodents, bed bugs and house flies. Although the program was going to expand to include all the BIA schools on the Navajo, Hopi and south Pueblo reservations, BIA discontinued program support and sponsorship in 2003. New pilot programs subsequently began on the Gila River Indian Reservation and Hopi Reservation in fall 2002. One school had spent nearly $7,000 in pest control annually until the school IPM program brought the cost down to a few hundred dollars instead.

The School IPM program continues to grow: UA faculty have partnered with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona/Sonora Commission, Arizona Asthma Coalition, EPA Region 9, National IPM Institute, International Urban IPM Association, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

In 2003 UA faculty formed a Valley Metro School Coalition dedicated to implementing IPM in member schools. Throughout 2003-04 the program expanded to include seven school districts in the Phoenix metropolitan area, plus the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Hopi Reservation. Programs are in development for the Tucson Unified School District and along the Arizona/Sonora border. The Arizona/Sonora Commission plans to implement IPM in all school in Sonora, Mexico, starting the model process along the border regions.

UA faculty, Arizona Department of Health Services Breath Mobile participants and pediatric asthma specialists from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital are conducting studies on the prospective health benefits of school IPM programs, monitoring students with asthma. The study is being conducted in a school district with the highest frequency of asthma attacks resulting in emergency room visits in the state. Asthma triggers include certain pest allergens, such as cockroaches, and types of pesticides. Schools that are on IPM programs not only have fewer cockroaches, but also less pesticide in the environment.

Impact: 

The IPM final evaluation for the Kyrene School District showed that the three Phoenix schools reduced their pesticide applications by 90 percent and kept pest populations below 85 percent of their original levels. The costs associated with IPM were no more than a traditional program.

Considering the larger Arizona perspective, there are 216 state school districts in Arizona, with a total enrollment, as of March 2004, of 1,011,959 students. So far, 283,700 of these students are in school districts that practice IPM–28 percent of the Arizona public school enrollment.

These successes have resulted in a unique coalition project launched in January 2004 with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Public Health, EPA Region 9, the UA, Structural Pest Control Commission and the National IPM in Schools team headed by Lame. The coalition includes five new school districts: Mesa Public, Scottsdale Unified, Washington Elementary, Madison and The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The ultimate goal is statewide implementation of school IPM practices.

One school on the Gila River Indian reservation had been spending $7,000 annually in pest control costs. After the IPM program was implemented, their bill was reduced to a few hundred dollars per year, saving the school money and increasing safety by withholding large amounts of pesticide.

On the Hopi reservation, feral dogs that were carrying ticks–disease vectors–were handled through an innovative community-wide IPM program. Instead of killing them, which would have left the ticks to find humans as blood hosts, the dogs were fitted with tick collars to reduce the disease threat.

The Arizona state program for IPM in schools has become a model for developing children’s environmental health programs in schools across the United States.

Funding Agencies: 

University of Arizona Cooperative Extension; Environmental Protection Agency

Conact Name: 
Dawn Gouge
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

The University of Arizona

37860 W. Smith-Enke Road

Maricopa, AZ 85239-3010

Tel: (520) 568-2273 ext. 223 FAX (520) 568-2556