Healthy Schools - Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management Logo

Why is Integrated Pest Management important?

Your school community may be exposed to pests as well as the pesticides used to control these pests.  Pesticides can help control pests; but, they need to be used carefully.  Children may be more sensitive to pesticides than adults.  Young children have different exposures than adults.  They can encounter pesticides by crawling, exploring, or hand-to-mouth activities.  In addition, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), children are more likely to suffer from adverse health effects due to environmental exposure for reasons such as:

  • Children's developing bodies can be particularly sensitive to toxic exposure during certain critical growth  stages, especially when children are exposed to chemicals known to cause developmental effects; and,
  • Children weigh less than adults. As a result, when children and adults ingest or inhale the same amount of chemicals, children receive a greater dose than adults.

Since children spend so much of their day at school, you have an opportunity to create a safer learning environment for them.  Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can help you to reduce their exposure to potentially harmful pests and to the pesticides used to control these pests.

What are the basics of IPM?

IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management based on the principle of elimination or reduction of the reasons that pests become pests.  IPM is a program that relies on common sense practices.

Examples of IPM Practices:

  • Food-contaminated dishes, utensils, surfaces should be cleaned by the end of each day.
  • Garbage cans and dumpsters must be cleaned regularly.
  • Litter should be collected and disposed of properly at least once a week.
  • The problem or pest should be identified before taking action.
  • If pesticides are necessary, spot treatments should be used rather than area-wide applications.
  • Cracks and crevices in walls, floors, and pavement can be either filled or eliminated.
  • Lockers and desks can be emptied and thoroughly cleaned at least twice yearly.
  • Fertilizers can be applied several times (e.g., spring, summer, fall) during the year, rather than one heavy application.
  • Vegetation, shrubs, and wood mulch should be kept at least one foot away from structures.

There are several resources available where you can learn more about IPM, or get the tools to start an IPM program at your school. Below are some resources to help you get started.

Additional resources

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
Pest Control in the School Environment – August 1993 
Integrated Pest Management Fact Sheet – February 2010

University of Tennessee
Child-Serving Facility Integrated Pest Management

National Pesticide Information Center

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What is Integrated Pest Management? – March 2010