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Wrongful Pesticide Use on OR School Grounds Worries Public-Health Advocates


Monday, October 25, 2021   

HILLSBORO, Ore. -- The Oregon Department of Agriculture recently completed an investigation into a suburban Portland school for the misuse of toxic pesticides on district grounds, and environmental and public health advocates said it is time to update Oregon's school pest-management law to prevent future violations.

Hillsboro School District was found to be in violation of the law over the course of several years as it applied pesticides in a "negligent and careless manner," according to the state. The district also used Fumitoxin, a dangerous rodent-control pesticide, which has resulted in the deaths of children, including four in Texas, who breathed in the toxic gas.

Dr. Randall Phelps, associate professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University, said children are especially vulnerable to these types of chemicals.

"We need to be thinking carefully about potential exposures of children in the environment to toxins, and we need to take some reasonable precautions to prevent exposure," Phelps urged. "If we're going to be applying toxins to public spaces, people that use those public spaces need to have a say."

The fines for the district and the designated Integrated Pest Management coordinator total nearly $20,000. A spokesperson for Hillsboro said as a result of the state investigation, the district has initiated an internal review of its pest-management program to address the concerns.

Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, a mother and teacher, said it's important to her school districts and parks have procedures in place to keep children safe. The Wilsonville Democrat was chief sponsor of legislation this year, designed to modernize the state pest-management law.

"When they are so young and developing and growing, and we also simultaneously know that where they play has just been sprayed with a neurotoxin or a known carcinogen, we have to ask ourselves how we can do better," Neron contended.

House Bill 2406, if passed, would have defined communication standards between schools and parents about pesticide application on campus grounds.

Neron hopes to reintroduce the bill next session and also supports funding to provide schools with technical expertise on pest management.

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