IPM for Child Care and Early Learning Environments
Millions of young children across the country spend a large portion of their day in child care settings. Creating healthy indoor environments for children includes careful consideration of children’s behavior. Children spend a lot of time on or near the floor, and they are naturally curious about the world around them. They explore by putting their hands and many other things in their mouths. Poisonous things such as pesticides and cleaners that are kept under the sink or applied on floors and other surfaces, are hazards children can come in contact with while exploring. Because children are much smaller than adults and because they eat, drink and breath more than adults do, something poisonous or not very healthy will affect them much more. They will get a bigger dose per body size than adults.
Some pests can also be the source of health problems. Pests can spread diseases and destroy property. Pests, especially cockroaches, mice and rats can trigger asthma. Even dead and decaying cockroaches and hair, feces and skin of rodents can trigger asthma attacks. Meanwhile, the pesticides used to control pests are potentially dangerous, can irritate the lungs, and may also trigger asthma attacks. Asthma triggers can differ from person to person and each person with asthma needs to understand what his or her triggers are. We have little to no personal control over some triggers, such as what comes out of a factory’s smoke stack. However, there are some that we have complete control over, such as eliminating pests and carefully choosing the tools that we use to control them.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a safer, more effective, longer-lasting method of pest control that emphasizes pest prevention by eliminating pests’ access to food, water, and shelter. When using IPM, properly identify the pest and know why it’s there so an appropriate combination of different pest control methods can be used for better effectiveness in controlling the pest. If any chemical is to be used, an IPM plan stresses choosing the least-toxic chemical in a formulation that reduces exposures. Exposure means how the chemical can get in you and on you (inhaled, ingested, and absorbed through the skin). Formulation is how the chemical is mixed, packaged and presented for use (“bombs,” aerosols, liquids, solids, enclosed baits, etc). So for example, human exposure is higher with an aerosol spray formulation that distributes the pesticide widely in the environment compared to an enclosed bait formulation that keeps the pesticide inside a tamper-resistant container.
Successful IPM is accomplished when everyone contributes and works together to accomplish pest prevention and safer pest control practices in a child care facility. It is a team effort, not just the responsibility of a pest control operator, custodians, or building maintenance staff.