Pesticides in Child Care Initiative 2010 Staten Island Pilot Project 2011
Project Leaders: Marcia L. Anderson, Tara M. Glynn and Dr. Adrian J. Enache, EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program
It is well known that infants and small children are among the most likely groups to suffer long-term health effects from exposure to chemical pesticides. There are two main reasons for this: higher exposure risk and greater vulnerability. The youngest children are often the most vulnerable to pesticide exposure, because their small bodies are undergoing rapid growth and development of vital organs and complex systems. Early exposure to pesticides and other toxic pollutants and exposure to low-levels of pesticides in utero or during early childhood has been linked to increased risk for many health problems.
In an attempt to evaluate the potential exposure of children to pesticides in child care settings, in December 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 launched the “Pesticides in Child Care Initiative”. Given the large universe of child care centers, the Staten Island Pilot Project was conducted in 2010 focusing on identifying the manner, type and frequency of pesticides being applied in child care centers in a target environmental justice area of Staten Island, N.Y. The initiative’s main premise was that children ages 0-6 may be potentially exposed to pesticides from indoor and/or outdoor pesticide applications in the childcare setting. In addition the pilot project was expected to help the EPA identify strategies needed to reduce the overall use of pesticides being applied in child care centers.
Through a three-phased process of child care center (CCC) site visitations, pest control company (PCC) records inspections and follow-up child care visitations, we were able to document the methods currently used to mitigate pest problems in child care centers including the type, amount, method and frequency of pesticide application. Through a process of educating CCC administrators and staff about the integrated pest management (IPM) process of proper pest management strategies, and the importance of reducing the use of pesticides around young children, we were able to reduce the frequency of pesticide applications in the target child care centers, while increasing their familiarity with IPM. Specifically, while at the beginning of this study (Phase 1) 80% of the centers were applying pesticides on a weekly/monthly schedule basis regardless the actual need, by Phase 3, regularly scheduled application of pesticides was reduced to only 36%, and the number of entities not applying pesticides at all increased from 9% to 20%. Another notable accomplishment is that the number of centers adopting and implementing IPM practices increased from 7% during Phase 1 to 80% by Phase 3, either having developed/implementing their own IPM plan or adopting/implementing the IPM plan of the pest control company servicing them.
The study also tested the efficiency of IPM education in CCC by measuring the base number and type of IPM issues found in CCC during the initial visit versus IPM corrected issues in a second visit, after IPM outreach was conducted, centers informed of the IPM issues found, and corrective actions taken. Of the six main IPM Issue categories evaluated (Maintenance, Outdoor Garbage, Indoor Trash, Cleaning, Clutter and Storage, Outdoor Standing Water), the greatest improvement was noted for Maintenance related issues, with 75% improvement rate.