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Student Environmental Protection Act Stalled in Congress
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School Environment Protection Act (SEPA)

Bill Summary

The School Environment Protection Act (SEPA) provides basic levels of protection for children and school staff from the use of pesticides in public school buildings and on school grounds.

Children need better protection from toxic chemical exposure while at school. According to the National Academy of Sciences report, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, children are among the least protected population group when it comes to pesticide exposure. The report finds that EPA generally lacks data on children necessary to protect them. Due to their small size, greater intake of air and food relative to body weight, developing organ systems and other unique characteristics, children are at higher risk than adults to pesticide exposure. Thirty-one states have taken some action to step in and provide protective action to address pesticide use in, around or near their schools. These include a mixture of pesticide restrictions and parental notification and posting of signs before certain pesticides are used. However, the state protection is uneven across the country and children in nineteen states are provided no protection at all.

Safer practices: The legislation requires local educational agencies and schools to implement a school pest management plan (SPMP) that incorporates pest management practices that consider all pest control methods that minimize health and environmental risks in school buildings and on school grounds. The SPMP must employ integrated methods, site and pest inspection, pest population monitoring and an evaluation of the need for pest management. The SPMP relies on a combination of methods that address sanitation, structural repair, mechanical, biological, cultural and pesticide strategies that minimize health and environmental risks. Each local educational agency is required to use a certified applicator or a person authorized by the State to implement the SPMP.

Pesticide use: A school may use a conventional pesticide, as long as the area of application is unoccupied during the treatment. For applications of pesticides via baseboard spraying, broadcast spraying, tenting or fogging, the treatment area must remain unoccupied for the following 24 hours, unless the pesticide product label states a specific reentry interval. Specific notification requirements must be provided if a pesticide, other than those exempted from notification, is applied at a school.

Universal notification: Notification regarding the schools pest management and pesticide use is required to be provided to all parents and school staff three times per year (at the beginning of the school year, midyear, and at the beginning of the summer session). The universal notice will contain a summary of the SPMP, a precautionary risk statement, information on how to sign up to be notified before a pesticide application, notice of pesticides that are exempt from notification requirements, and information on who to contact for information on all pesticides used at the school.

Notification registry: Parents and school staff can request to be notified at least 24 hours in advance of pesticide applications and receive information about the applications by registering with the school. Notification includes the common and trade name, a description of the potential adverse effects based on the chemical's material safety data sheet and label of the pesticide, a precautionary risk statement, the location and reasons for the application of the pesticide. A complete list of pesticides that may be used as part of a regular vocational agricultural curriculum at a school must be provided at the beginning of each term to persons on the registry.

Posting of Notification Signs: In addition, the legislation requires that signs be posted 24 hours in advance of the pesticide application and remain in place for 24 hours after the pesticide application. In the case of notification and posting for outdoor pesticide use, three application dates in chronological order must be provided and the application may take place on subsequent dates if the preceding date is cancelled due to weather. Signs are required to be posted at a central location noticeable to individuals entering the building and at the proposed site of application.

Pesticides exempt from notification: Certain pesticides that may be used by a school are exempt from posting and registry notification requirements, including 1) antimicrobials, 2) baits, gels, and pastes (that are applied in areas out of reach of children, not readily accessible to children, or are in a tamper resistant container), and 3) pesticides exempt under the Code of Federal Regulations title 40 section 152. A statement that these pesticides may be used without additional notification is required to be provided as part of the universal notification. Individuals can contact the school for information concerning these exempt pesticides. Pesticides applied on school grounds at the direction of a State or local agency other than a local educational agency are exempt from this and other provisions of the act.

Statement about pesticide risk: The following statement is required to be provided in all notifications: "As part of the school pest management plan, (school name) may make applications of pesticide products. All products used are registered for this use by the EPA and by (state agency). EPA continues to examine pesticides to determine that use of pesticides in accordance with instructions printed on the label does not pose unreasonable risks to human health and the environment. Nevertheless, EPA cannot guarantee that pesticides do not pose risks, and unnecessary exposure should be avoided."

State Requirements: Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, EPA funds states' pesticide programs through cooperative agreements. SEPA requires the state lead pesticide agency to incorporate the states SPMP into the states cooperative agreement for EPA approval. And once approved, make it available to each local educational agency within the state. The state lead pesticide agency is also required to develop descriptions of the potentially acute and chronic effects that may result from exposure to each pesticide, as stated on the pesticide product's label, material safety data sheet, or any final, official EPA information related to the pesticide.

Information pesticide use: Each local educational agency is required to designate a contact person. The contact person maintains information about pesticide applications, acts as a contact for inquires, makes pesticide material safety data sheets, labels, EPA fact sheets, and any final official EPA information related to the pesticide available to the public.

Record retention:Each school is required to maintain all pesticide use data, other than for antimicrobials, for at least three years. The information is available upon request to any person.

Emergency use provision: The legislation allows for the emergency use of pesticides when the immediate health and safety of children are being threatened. In this case, pre-notification requirements of the legislation are waived and schools are to provide notice of the application to the individuals listed on the registry within 24 hours of pesticide use and post notification signs immediately following the application. The notice must include information required under regular notice as well as a description of the reasons requiring the application to be an emergency.

Legislation does not preempt states or localities: A state or locality can exceed the provisions of this act. States or localities that already have policies that meet or exceed this act can continue with their implementation.

Get more info at OCA's Children's Environmental Health campaign headquarters

Read the Journal of American Medical Association's recent study on record levels of pesticide exposure among kids in schools



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