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Educational Tools for Safer Pest Control in Childcare Centers

Posted: August 28, 2012

New training modules are now available to help directors and staff in childcare centers better manage pests in their facilities. The development of these modules was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Children’s Health Protection.

The ten-part PowerPoint modules present step-by-step methods for dealing with common pests using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. IPM aims to identify, prevent and manage pests safely and effectively. IPM uses knowledge of pests’ habits and needs to help implement pest prevention tactics as a first line of defense. Pesticides are used as a last resort, and only pesticide products that pose the least toxic, least risk of exposure to building occupants are chosen.

“Children’s bodies are small, still developing, and they eat, drink and breathe relatively more than adults do,” says Lyn Garling, director of programs for the Pennsylvania IPM Program. “Thus, potentially harmful substances will affect children more strongly than adults.”

Recent studies indicate pests and possibly pesticides can cause and aggravate asthma and other health issues, especially in children. Indoor air quality is severely impacted by high pest populations and repeated use of pesticides that leave chemical residues. “Millions of young children across the country spend a large portion of their day in child care and early learning settings. Once staff and administrators learn about risks due to pests and pesticides and safer solutions, new approaches and steps can be implemented to reduce risks in these environments,” Garling explains.

The modules are geared towards childcare directors, maintenance staff, teachers, care givers and nurses, focusing on pest reduction and prevention and why it is important. Module topics include an introduction to IPM, mice and rats, cockroaches, bed bugs, flies, ants, and head lice. They are available as downloadable PDFs from the EPA website at http://epa.gov/childcare/training.html.

The modules were created as part of a grant from the EPA's Office of Children’s Health Protection to the Pennsylvania IPM Program at Penn State University in collaboration with EPA Region II; the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, entomologist and a senior extension associate for the New York State IPM Program, Cornell University.

For more information on IPM in child care settings, including training materials, guidelines and more, go to the PA IPM’s Child Care and Early Learning Environments web site at http://extension.psu.edu/ipm/childcare.