Pesticide Use in Schools
Controlling pests in and around schools may be necessary to protect children’s health. Pests can spread disease, trigger asthma attacks, and in the case of insect stings, cause life-threatening allergic reactions. However, it is also important to minimize children’s exposure to pesticides. Children may be especially vulnerable to health effects from pesticides because their bodies are still growing and developing. Fortunately, there is a wealth of information available to schools on how to make decisions that balance the risks of pests and pesticides. This approach to managing pests is called Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. IPM provides a framework for eliminating the underlying conditions that allow pests to thrive, and for using "least toxic methods," such as baits and traps, to avoid unnecessary pesticide exposures. The result is a safer and healthier learning environment for students, teachers, and staff.
Pesticide notification in schools (Parents Right to Know Act)
The Parents Right To Know Act of 2000 (MN Statutes: 121A.30) (Subdivision 8) requires public and non-public K-12 schools to notify employees and parents/guardians about pesticide use on school property if certain pesticides are applied. These pesticides are: (1) toxicity category I, II, III pesticide products, which are classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and (2) restricted use pesticides, defined by federal law. For clarification of what is meant by these types of pesticides, refer to the definitions at the end of this page.
Notification must be provided to parents/guardians and employees no later than September 15th of each school year. The notice must:
- State that an estimated schedule of pesticide applications is available for review or copying at the school office.
- State that long-term health effects on children from the application of pesticides or the class of chemicals to which they belong may not be fully understood.
- Inform parents that they may request the school to notify them before pesticide applications made on days other than those specified in the estimated schedule (Individual notification).
For applications made on days other than those specified in the estimated schedule, the school principal or other person having general control and supervision of the school must provide reasonable notice to a parent/guardian, upon request. The notice must include the following:
- the pesticide to be applied,
- the time of the planned application, and
- the location of the planned application.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) provides model notices for schools to use if they choose to do so:
General Notice for Parents or Guardians (Model Notice #1)
Individual Notice for Parents or Guardians (Model Notice #2)
General Notice for School Employees (Model Notice #3)
Important: cleaning products are excluded from the law.
Pesticides in Toxicity Categories I, II, and III: The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies pesticides into categories according to their acute (short-term) toxicity. These toxicity categories are based on a series of tests conducted to determine acute health effects. Pesticide labels are required to carry a prominent “signal word” which reflects the toxicity category of the pesticide product. The following are the categories, in the order of most toxic to least toxic, and their pesticide label signal word:
- Category I (highly toxic) with signal words DANGER or DANGER/POISON
- Category II (moderately toxic) signal word WARNING
- Category III (slightly toxic) with signal word CAUTION
Pesticides in Toxicity Category IV are relatively nontoxic pesticide products are not required to bear a signal word, but they may also carry the signal word CAUTION on the label. Notification is not required for Category IV pesticide products. To determine whether a pesticide product is in toxicity category I, II, or III, you can look for the signal word on the product label. If you do not have the label available, product labels can be looked up in EPA’s Pesticide Product Label Database (search by product name or EPA product registration number).
Restricted Use Pesticides: Pesticide products are classified as “restricted use” if EPA determines that added restrictions are necessary to avoid adverse effects on humans or the environment. Under federal and Minnesota state law, restricted use pesticides may be applied only by certified and licensed applicators or those under their direct supervision. The statement “Restricted Use Pesticide” must appear at the very top of the pesticide label's front panel, followed by the reason for the restricted use classification. The phrase “Restricted Use Pesticide” will also appear under the heading “Directions for Use”.
For questions about the Parents’ Right to Know Act, please contact the Minnesota Department of Education at email@example.com or 651-582-8779.
Minnesota school IPM requirements
Schools in Minnesota are not required to use IPM; however, an increasing number of schools are implementing IPM practices to prevent pest problems and address concerns about pesticide use. By law, a school or school district cannot claim to have adopted an IPM plan unless the plan includes the components outlined in the Parents Right To Know Act.
MDH encourages all Minnesota schools to use IPM as a strategy to prevent pest problems and reduce pesticide use. The following links provide resources about IPM in schools for school administrators, facilities managers, teachers, students and parents:
Managing Pests in Schools, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Provides an introduction to IPM, how to control common pests in schools, IPM tools and resources, and school IPM webinars.
Practical pest prevention for Minnesota schools, University of Minnesota
- Provides a pest calendar to help plan for inspecting your facility as well as a walk-through form with a checklist of what to look for during an inspection.