Most commercial insecticides, pesticides and cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can cause symptoms in people with asthma. There are many laws, at the national, state and city level, that protect people from exposure to toxic chemicals in commercial products. In NYC exposure levels at school are controlled through IPM and Green-Cleaning policies.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
IPM focuses on controlling pests through a combination of methods. Because heavily pesticide applications can pose a health risk to children and adults, including those with asthma, IPM is the safest pest management approach. IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of management evaluations, decisions, and nontoxic controls.
IPM practitioners, aware of the potential for pest infestation, follow a four-tiered approach that focuses on prevention. The four steps include:
Evaluate and Set Action Thresholds: Before taking any action, IPM sets an action threshold--a point at which pest sightings or environmental conditions indicate that an action must be taken. Seeing a single pest does not always mean control is needed; a very thorough cleaning may be all that is needed.
Monitor and Identify Pests: IPM programs monitor for pests and identify them accurately, so that appropriate control decisions can be made in coordination with an action threshold.
Prevention: As a first line of pest control, IPM programs aim to manage the indoor space to prevent pests from entering the area and becoming a threat. Prevention, e.g., sanitation, structural repair, sealing cracks in walls and holes around pipes, can be very effective and cost efficient, and present little if any health risk to people or environment.
Control: If it is determined that prevention methods alone are not effective, IPM programs use nonchemical, less risky mechanical controls, such as roach traps and sticky papers.
According to city and state law, NYC schools are required:
1) to use the least toxic method of IPM to control pests, 2) to make the school’s maintenance plan available to parents and staff, and 3) to notify parents about any scheduled pesticide applications.
Green Cleaning Products
Many common cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can cause symptoms in people with asthma. In addition, common cleaning products contribute chemical run-off to the environment and can cause other health problems, such as eye or skin irritation or headaches. For this reason, it is best to switch to “green” cleaning products, which contain fewer chemicals and which are safer for people and the environment.
According to New York State law, elementary and secondary schools are required to procure and use environmentally-sensitive cleaning and maintenance products. Use of products with high chemical contents, such as bleach, is limited to clean up of body fluids, such as blood and urine.
Classroom and cluster teachers may bring their own cleaning products in for use during the day. These should also be green cleaning products. The school custodian can provide spray bottles with approved cleaner for use.
Tips for Buying and Using Cleaners
Clean when children or those with asthma are not in the house or room.
Wear a mask over the mouth and nose when cleaning.
Avoid using air fresheners or scented candles.
Make your own all-purpose cleaner by mixing equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Be sure to put labels on your new green cleaning products.
Do not mix any other chemicals. Bleach, chlorine and ammonia can produce fumes that are extremely dangerous.
Look for cleaning products with a Green Seal certification.
Buy cleaning products with low scent.