Depending on where you live, pesticide use in or around your child’s elementary school could be a major cause for concern. Pesticides may be found on non-organic produce and have also been detected in some schools’ drinking water due to agricultural pesticide runoff.

What Are the Side Effects of Pesticide Exposure for Children?

While research does vary, pesticides are known to cause toxicity when a child is exposed to a chemical in large amounts. A pesticide could trigger an acute, delayed, or allergic reaction.
Possible side effects of pesticides over the long term include:

  • Endocrine complications
  • Cancer
  • Infertility
  • Brain damage
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Organ failure
  • Skin irritation

Why Integrated Pest Management Is a Must in Schools

In order to promote sanitation, pesticides may be used within a school to control pests. However, it’s critically important that pesticides are sprayed by a trained professional in the correct volumes to protect young children in a classroom from toxic exposure.

The simple truth is that children are more sensitive to pesticides than adults. Young children in a classroom may be more likely to crawl and place small items in their mouths to increase the risk of pesticide exposure even further.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that all schools use Integrated Pest Management to control pests and protect kids at the same time. A successful IPM program can be achieved with the following steps:

  1. Develop an official pest management policy. A school can make a commitment to an IPM program by creating an official statement of their new policy. This policy will inform parents, students, and teachers that pests will only be managed to protect human health and prevent the spread of disease.
  2. Inspect and monitor school wide pests. The heart of an IPM program focuses on inspecting, identifying, and monitoring pests to choose the safest and most effective method of pest control. Potential insect infestations should be analyzed carefully before pest control measures are taken in a classroom.
  3. Use preventative maintenance. In between extermination visits, pests in a school can be kept to a minimum by taking the necessary precautions. For example, school doors should be kept shut when not in use and reinforced with appropriate weather-stripping. Food and beverages should only be kept in designated areas with crumbs and spills swept up immediately. Cafeterias and dining halls should implement the proper food storage methods, and trash should be disposed of outdoors.

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While many parents question the safety of their child at school because of tragic school shootings in recent headlines, other health dangers lurk within the four walls of a classroom.

To keep your kids safe in elementary school, it helps to become informed as a parent. There are 3 common dangers that could affect your child’s health in their learning environment:

  1. Pesticides. Depending on the state, not all schools are required to have a set pesticide policy with parent notification. This is unfortunate since pesticide exposure over time can cause a number of health issues in children, including reproductive damage, hormone imbalances, and cancer.

    Even pesticides used on sports fields can easily leach into groundwater supplies and may affect the drinking water quality in a local elementary school. Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s school directly to find out about their pesticide policy and urge the implementation of Integrated Pest Management for safer extermination.

  2. Vending machines. While a parent may go to painstaking lengths to pack a healthy lunch for their child, a school vending machine could be undermining their best efforts. According to a report from the University of Michigan Medical School, kids that eat junk food from vending machines at an early age are more likely to suffer from obesity and chronic health issues, including coronary artery disease and diabetes, later on in life.

    The foods that a child eats in their early years really do matter; schools with vending machines are encouraged to display healthier food choices, like fresh fruit and yogurt versus candy and chips.

  3. Lack of activity. In an elementary school, children are prohibited from running in the halls for safety purposes. But do kids really get enough physical activity in their short break at recess? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that only 3.8% of elementary schools in 2006 provided adequate daily physical education throughout the school year.

    This number was compared to 7.1% in middle schools and 2.1% in high schools. Up to 22% of schools don’t require any form of physical education whatsoever. To combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle in elementary school, sign your child up for extracurricular sports activities. Parents can also work together to promote school exercise and sports programs that children can participate in during recess or PE.


Keeping your kids safe at school requires attention to detail as a parent. All of the above school risks can affect your child’s health and could detract from their quality of life.