Cockroaches, rodents and other pests found in school facilities can be hazardous to student and staff health. Cold winter weather encourages these pests to seek refuge indoors. If schools are not prepared, pests can find their way into school buildings and cause health problems for the occupants. Some pests can spread harmful pathogens. Many pests also are common sources of allergens, which can result in serious allergic reactions and trigger asthma attacks. More than 6 million children have asthma, and 80 percent of asthma in children is caused by allergens,. Thirty-seven percent of children with asthma in the United States are allergic to cockroach allergens and are more likely to require medical attention for asthma-related issues. To maintain healthy IAQ, schools can control pests and reduce exposure to chemicals by implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program.
IPM is a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to controlling pests. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management strategies, including the judicious use of pesticides. In contrast to conventional pest management, which controls existing pests through scheduled pesticide applications, IPM controls pest populations by removing their basic survival elements, such as food, water and shelter, and by blocking access to facilities where these items might be readily available. IPM prevents pest problems before they begin and cultivates healthy school environments by reducing the unnecessary exposure of students, teachers and staff to pests and pesticides.
Conduct a walkthrough using the IAQ Tools for Schools IPM Checklist, which will help identify potential problem areas and pest entry areas. Know your common school pests. Each pest has its own attributes, and the key to conducting good IPM is understanding the pests involved. House mice, for example, can fit through about ½-inch gap, produce about 40 to 100 fecal pellets a day, and give birth to as many as 150 young each year. Pests can produce conditions that are fire hazards, such as chewing through electrical wires. Openings to the outdoors provide easy entry for pests; seal all gaps and entries in your school’s building envelope to eliminate pest access and harborage. Once all entry ways have been sealed, safely eliminate existing pests using basic IPM principles, including—
- Inspect and monitor for pests.
- Establish or refer to an IPM plan.
- Use baits instead of pesticide sprays.
- Communicate with occupants prior to pesticide use.
- Mark indoor and outdoor areas treated with pesticides.
- Watch selections from the IAQ Master Class Professional Training Webinar Series, such as Smart, Sensible and Sustainable Pest Management in Your School for additional information on how to create healthy learning environments in the winter.
- Download and use the IAQ Tools for Schools IPM Checklist. Tailor it to fit your school or school district’s needs.
- Download and use EPA’s new School IAQ Assessment Mobile App. This tool works alongside the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit and provides handy digital checklists for on-the-go school walkthroughs.
- Visit EPA’s Managing Pests in Schools Web page or check out EPA’s Health Benefits of Integrated Pest Management in Schoolsresources.