Leading from the Left

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Schoolchildren's Health

There were articles today in both the Chapel Hill Herald and the News and Observer about herbicides being applied to a field at Smith Middle School. Here's the link to the Herald article.

Steve Scroggs, the Assistant Superindendent for Support Services for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, apologized for the incident and acknowledged that a new state requirement was not followed. I commend Mr. Scroggs for addressing this issue directly and promising that the law will be followed from now on. I worked hard to get this new law passed and am grateful to see that it's being used.

The legislature passed the "Schoolchildren's Health Act" (HB 1502) last year that discourages the use of pesticides on school property and requires schools to develop integrated pest management plans (IPM's). The new law further requires that 72 hours advance notice if pesticides are to be applied on school property. (BTW, herbicides are classified as pesticides by the EPA and therefore are covered under this new legislation).

The organization for which I work, the Conservation Council of North Carolina, partnered with Agricultural Resources to create the "Schoolchildren's Health Act" in 2005. We formed a coalition with pediatricians, children's advocates, and other environmental groups to support and lobby for passage of this bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake), the "Schoolchildren's Health Act" passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously. Grier was a very strong champion for the passage of this bill. And while it ended up passing unanimously, behind the scenes success was not assured. Grier fought very hard to make sure this bill got through both chambers with minimal amendments. (Rep. Martin, by the way, is the son of Chapel Hill residents Harriet and D.G. Martin).

In any case, it's great to see that the provisions of the "Schoolchildren's Health Act" are being enforced. Because children's bodies are so small, exposure to pesticides and herbicides is particularly harmful. Their bodies just can't metabolize harmful chemicals the way adults can. I hope these new rules are being enforced across the state so that all NC school children are protected for unneccessary exposure.