WASHINGTON, D.C. -- USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, in partnership with the EPA, the Regional Integrated Pest Management Centers and the IPM Institute, has released a strategic plan to implement IPM practices in schools. The plan was created to reduce pest and pesticide-related hazards to children in the U.S. public schools by 2015.

"Poor pest management and the use of pesticides can affect students' learning abilities and long-term health, especially asthma, which is the number one cause of school absences," said Colien Hefferan, CSREES administrator. "IPM schools have less pesticide residue, fewer pest problems and lower pest-related allergens. Best practices are essential to improving attendance and performance."

The plan, School IPM 2015: A Strategic Plan for Integrated Pest Management in Schools in the United States, calls for a 70 percent reduction in pest complaints and pesticide use in schools. It also presents actions and a timeline for a coordinated effort to engage professionals in all walks of school life, including parents, teachers, custodians, food service staff, school administrators, pest management professionals, extension staff, regulators and architects.

Pest management practices in schools are in need of improvement; more than 50 studies have documented deficiencies, including unmanaged pest infestations, unsafe and illegal use of pesticides and unnecessary pesticide exposure.

Full implementation of integrated pest management practices is affordable and cost-effective. It includes a thorough understanding of pests and pest biology by pest managers; careful inspection and monitoring for pest presence and pest-conducive conditions; and pest prevention through effective education, sanitation and facility maintenance. IPM has reduced pest complaints and pesticide use in schools and other public buildings by 71 percent to 93 percent with no long-term increase in costs.

A coordinated national effort is needed to make safe and effective pest management the standard for all schools. More information about the IPM in Schools program and to view the strategic plan is online.

The Regional IPM Centers, along with the IPM Institute and the EPA, developed the plan with support from CSREES, which established the regional centers in 2000. The Regional IPM Centers have started IPM in Schools working groups to decide how to implement the plan regionally. To date, CSREES has funded more than $1.6 million in projects related to implementing IPM practices in schools.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, CSREES focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.

SOURCE: USDA news release.