SEPA Bill Summary
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School Environment Protection Act (SEPA)
Bill Summary

The School Environment Protection Act (SEPA) provides protection for children from the use of pesticides in school buildings and on school grounds.

Children need better protection from toxic chemical exposure while at school. According to the National Academy of Sciences report, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, children are among the least protected population group when it comes to pesticide exposure. The report finds that EPA generally lacks data on children necessary to protect them. Due to their small size, greater intake of air and food relative to body weight, developing organ systems and other unique characteristics, children are at higher risk than adults to pesticide exposure. Thirty states have taken some action to step in and provide protective action to address pesticide use in, around or near their schools. These include a mixture of pesticide restrictions and parental notification and posting of signs before certain pesticides are used. However, the state protection is uneven across the country and children in twenty states are provided no protection at all.

Safer practices. The legislation requires that the safest methods of pest control are used in school buildings and on school grounds to protect children. As a first step, it requires public schools to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches to pest control that only use the lowest toxicity pesticides. IPM relies on a combination of methods that address sanitation, structural repair, mechanical measures, biological controls and other non-chemical methods inside buildings and additional approaches for turf and ornamental plant management that build healthy soil and natural resistance to pests.

Least toxic pesticides. The legislation generally excludes from use in schools pesticides that are determined by the Environmental Protection Agency to cause cancer, mutations, birth defects, reproductive dysfunction, neurological and immune system effects, endocrine system disruption, and those pesticides rated as acutely and moderately toxic. Space spraying for discharging pesticides into the air throughout the school is prohibited. Specific pesticides are identified as acceptable under the definition, including boric acid, silica gels, diatomaceous earth, nonvolatile insect and rodent baits in tamper resistant containers, microbe-based insecticides, botanical insecticides (not including synthetic pyrethroids) without toxic synergists, and biological controls.

Notification of pesticide use. If a school, after utilizing IPM and least toxic pesticides, determines that a pest cannot be controlled, the school may use conventional pesticides, provided that the school staff and parents of children in the school are notified 72 hours prior to use of the pesticide. Notification must include the common and trade name, a description of the potential adverse effects based on the chemical's material safety data sheet and label of the pesticide, a description of the location and a description of the reasons for the application of the pesticide. In addition to the notices, the legislation requires that signs are posted 72 hours in advance of a pesticide application and remain in place for 72 hours after pesticide application. In the case of notification and posting for outdoor pesticide use, three application dates in chronological order must be provided and the application may take place on subsequent dates if the preceding date is cancelled due to weather.

National School IPM Advisory Board. The legislation establishes a 12- member National School IPM Advisory Board to oversee (i) the implementation of the act, (ii) standards for use of least toxic pesticides, (iii) any future proposals to expand the list of least toxic pesticides, (iv) proposed restrictions of pesticides that may endanger children's health, and (v) a public review and comment process regarding pesticide uses affected by this act. The board includes parents, public health care and medical professionals, state IPM coordinators, independent IPM specialists, environmental and children's health advocacy groups, teachers and other school personnel and a trade organization representing pest control operators.

Emergency use provision. The legislation allows for the emergency use of pesticides when the immediate health and safety of children are being threatened. In this case, prenotification requirements of the legislation are waived and schools are to provide notice of spraying within 24 hours of pesticide use.

Authorization. The bill authorizes $7 million for each of fiscal years 2000 through 2004.

Jay Feldman / Kagan Owens
Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP
701 E Street, SE, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 543-5450
Alfonso Lopez
Legislative Assistant
Senator Robert Torricelli
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-8583

Source for the above SEPA Bill Summary
Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP)
         under, PROGRAMS:  School Environment Protection Act, Bill Summary


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