A CASLE Pesticide Presentation

The following is CASLE’s Presentation to a P3 school operator whose subcontractor sprayed a school ground for weeds in 2001.  (P3 schools are owned and maintained by private companies but are rented to the local school board.) They were granted permission to do so through apparently proper procedures allowed within the Halifax region’s anti-pesticide bylaw. This happened despite the fact that regional school boards do not spray their school grounds (for health reasons), and despite the fact that this school houses the province’s only ECO classroom for environmentally sensitive students. CASLE was asked to present in partnership with RATE (Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment).  CASLE, RATE and staff from the regional municipality made presentations in hopes of preventing further mistakes such as this one. Alternatives to pesticides were a strong part of the overall presentation.


Citizens for A Safe Learning Environment (CASLE) is an information-based, registered, non-profit organization with a network of volunteer parents, teachers, and affiliated groups and individuals from across Nova Scotia. Our work reaches into other parts of Canada, and internationally.

CASLE works hand in hand with parents, government, school boards, and others to improve the condition of school buildings and the products and practices used within. Our aim is that school children and school staffs have safe and healthy places to spend their days. Healthy places foster maximum productivity for staff and enable students to reach their full potential.

Our Mission

With solid information, respect, and dedication as our primary tools, we can provide environmentally healthy improvements in products, practices, and the condition of Nova Scotia’s schools.


CASLE appreciates that your company was one of the consortiums in the P3 process that paid particular attention to the healthy building information which CASLE presented during the P3 process. We were also pleased when our President, K. Robinson, spoke to your company’s representative in August, and found a willingness to help prevent potential exposures at this high school. He agreed to request the school principal to keep students off the “lawns” until spring, when concern over tracking pesticide residues into the school would be lessened.

Brief History

Several years ago CASLE representatives encouraged the Halifax Regional School Board, as well as other school boards in Nova Scotia to refrain from chemical pesticide and herbicide use. There had been many incidents reported where children and staff suffered asthma attacks, outbreaks of rashes, and many other health problems that could be linked to pesticide applications. Through CASLE, school boards obtained information on other locations in North America where Integrated Pest Management is being successfully used. In Texas, for example, there is a legislated requirement for school boards to have IPM programs with full time paid coordinators. In Maryland, the school board became even more enthusiastic because they were able to save over $92,000 from their pest control budget in their start-up year.

To CASLE’s knowledge, most school boards throughout Nova Scotia have implemented “no-spray” programs.

Vulnerability of Children

There is much compelling research to avoid pesticide exposures because of the vulnerability of children. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine found children to be six times more vulnerable to toxins in the environment than are adults. Organs and systems are growing and developing during childhood. For example, the brain is still growing past the age of eighteen, and tends to reach adult size around twenty years of age. Children’s bodies are developing quickly and what they breathe, or ingest, either becomes part of their body or else it has to be removed through a detoxification system. Unfortunately, chemicals usually do much of their damage before they are detoxified or removed from the body. Some remain and build up in fatty tissue or organs. Of concern too, are the links between some pesticides and estrogenic effects and harm to the reproductive systems of children. These effects may not be apparent in the lives of those exposed, but rather, show up in breast cancer or other health effects in children born many years later to those who were exposed.

Drifting of Pesticide

As pesticide applications are sprayed, much of it becomes airborne. It comes in contact with children and adults skin, they breathe the pesticide into their lungs. Drifting occurs, particularly when there is any movement of air. Pesticide linger on plants, trees, neighbouring properties, asphalt areas, buildings, playgrounds, etc. It can also enter the school building through open windows, doors and the ventilation systems. Students, staff and other building occupants carry pesticide into the school from residue on their footwear, clothing and bodies.

Additional Concerns

a.. A flaw exists in the permit granting system with HRM that allowed a permit to be issued to spray pesticide on school grounds of a P3 school in HRM, in spite of an existing by-law preventing pesticide spraying within 50 meters of school properties, and an existing Halifax Regional School Board policy not to spray pesticide on school grounds.

b.. No apparent consideration was given during the permit approval process that this high school has the only ECO classroom in Nova Scotia – built specifically for students and teachers suffering from environmental and chemical sensitivities. This oversight could have been deadly.


1…The management company review its policy and procedures regarding pesticide spraying on school property at all of their P3 schools, and incorporate, at minimum, existing HRM and school board regulations, adopting a “no spray” policy.

2… An examination of how the permit issuing system failed in this situation, students and staff, so we can prevent future similar events from taking place.

3… Education on alternatives to pesticide spraying; implementation of an Integrated Pest Management program.

There are alternatives to pesticide use that are being used even in southern United States where pest and weed problems include such things as cockroaches.

The concern is that this information needs to be put into active use here in Nova Scotia and in a way that is appropriate to NS school’s needs.


Pesticides: Use, Effects, and Alternatives to Pesticides in Schools. November 1999. United States General Accounting Office.

Poisoned Schools Invisible Threat, Visible Actions – A Report of the Child Proofing Our Communities: Poisoned School Campaign. March 2001. Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

How Children Are Exposed and Harmed When Pesticides are Used at School.  Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. Getting Pesticides Out of Our Schools. Becky Riley. August 1994. Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. 

Generations at Risk: How Environmental Toxicants May Affect Reproductive Health in California. Physicians for Social Responsibility. May 2001.

Our Children at Risk. Natural Resources Defense Council. 1999


National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides

A very comprehensive site that includes topics such as genetic engineering of food, the dangers of pesticides and school policy information.  http://www.beyondpesticides.org

EPA Office of Pesticide Programs
Includes new regulations, pesticide information, safety guidelines and integrated pest management. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/

Pesticide Action Network (PAN)
Toxicity and regulatory information for pesticides. http://www.pesticideinfo.org/

HRM Pesticide By-Law
An excellent site discussing the pesticide bylaw, and alternate safe and sustainable maintenance of properties. http://www.region.halifax.ns.ca/pesticides/index.html

Pest Facts Information Centre
A website devoted to informing the public about the use and misuse of pesticides. It includes information about children’s health, pesticide ingredients, recent news articles and regulations etc. http://www.pestfacts.org/index.html

Pesticide Education Resources (University of Nebraska)
Provides information about integrated pest management, pesticide safety, material safety data sheets, a glossary and pesticide training courses. http://pested.unl.edu/

The Pesticide Management Education Program (Cornell University)
Pesticide regulations, fact sheets, MSDS etc. http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/

Pesticide Use Reduction Project (Wisconsin)

Schools integrated pest management, health effects, success stories, publication list, etc.

PANNA – Pesticide Action Network North America
Details the hazards of pesticides on children’s health. http://www.igc.apc.org/panna/

Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP)
The hazards of pesticides and safe use in schools. http://www.pesticide.org

RATE – Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment


Respectfully Submitted,

Hum, Vice President
Citizens for A Safe Learning Environment