Friday, September 27, 2013

Buzz Off! Protecting Kids from Pesticides

By Kate Watkins, former volunteer

Nobody likes pests, and nobody likes being exposed to toxic pesticides.  So how do we prevent pests and keep ourselves safe?  Integrated Pest Management (IPM)!

If you haven’t heard much about Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, don’t worry! IPM is an easy and toxic-free approach to pest control that dramatically reduces chemical pollution by emphasizing prevention through sanitation, maintenance, and monitoring of pest prone areas in schools, child care centers, and even in the home.

IPM costs less than many conventional pest control programs, and is often more effective than
Safer, least-toxic ingredients you can use to prevent pests!
spraying toxic pesticides. To utilize IPM, child care center staff, directors, and parents need to be educated on how they can participate. Monitoring of the grounds must be done frequently to catch potential pest problems before they begin, and preventative actions must be taken, including proper sanitation, proper waste disposal, structural maintenance, and good soil health. These steps can be as simple as installing weather stripping and door sweeps to prevent pests from entering your child care center and home; putting cereal and sugar in airtight, glass or plastic containers; repairing leaky pipes; and making sure all garbage cans lock securely.

If pest problems do break out despite these measures, the least-toxic and lowest-risk pesticides should be used to eliminate the problem, such as baits and traps. In these cases, parents must be notified about the pesticides being used and records of pest activity and management must be kept to comply with regulations and to integrate IPM into the responsibilities of current and future staff. Using these steps can help spread awareness about toxic pesticides and may greatly reduce their usage.

Integrated Pest Management is also something we can each practice in our homes, as well—feel free to use these steps and information in your house and share with friends and family!

To help people implement IPM, Toxic Free North Carolina offers free training to child care centers, for which attendees receive four contact hours from the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education...also for free!  If you are interested in hosting an IPM training for your staff, please contact Lynne Walter at Toxic Free NC at (919) 833-1123 or

Kate Watkins is a student, nanny, dancer, and she was a volunteer for Toxic Free NC.


Did you find this article helpful? Approximately once a month, Toxic Free NC volunteers or staff write a newsletter-ready article, focusing on children's environmental health, that we send to child care centers across North Carolina. 

These articles contain helpful tips on ways child care centers, staff, and the children's parents can reduce kids' exposures to toxic chemicals and pesticides...we also think they're great for using in your home, too!  We hope you find the article useful and feel free to share. 

If you would like any of the past articles, please email Lynne Walter for copies or to be added to our Child Care News list.  Examples of past articles include:

  • Having Fun in the Sun: Avoiding Sunburn, Skin Cancer, and Toxic Chemicals, too 
  • Toxic-Free Gardening with Kids: 5 Tips for Gardeners at Home, School, & Child Care on Getting Rid of Bugs Safely
  • Insect Repellent and Kid Safety
  • Get Pesticides Out of Your Kids' Classrooms: It's Easier than You Think!
  • Mosquito Management in Child Care

Text and photo, Copyright 2013 by Toxic Free NC.  NC Child Care centers have permission to use text and photo for educational purposes with their parents and staff, provided full credit is given to Toxic Free NC.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Growing gardens and relationships with farmworkers

By Anna Jensen, Community Organizer

I've been thinking a lot this summer about how change is made, and I keep coming back, in various ways, to the centrality of  relationship building.
This year, we made a conscious choice to narrow the scope of our farmworker outreach in order to focus on building deeper, more meaningful relationships with farmworkers. Instead of presenting information about pesticide protections to as many workers as possible, we decided to return to the same three camps at least twice a month during May through August, with the goal of having repeated conversations with workers about their experiences, needs, and ideas for the future. We wanted to support workers not only in their quest for better protections from pesticides at work, but also in other aspects of their lives so that they felt they had what they needed to advocate for themselves.

As we have done in previous years, we brought seedlings and supported farmworkers in organic gardening. We arranged for someone to cook dinner for the largest camp three times over the course of the season, and we sat down and ate dinner with 25 farmworkers, and we listened. By listening, we learned more about workers' food traditions, their knowledge and work backgrounds, and what motivated them to fight for safer work places, or what prevented them from protecting themselves or speaking up.

We distributed over 80 tomato, cucumber and pepper seedlings to 3 camps, increasing access to pesticide-free food for more than 50 farmworkers during the agricultural season this year. The chile peppers in the largest camp did especially well, and one farmworker there said that "one of them is worth ten of the ones we buy at the store." We also conducted hands-on gardening workshops in each camp several times during the season, identifying problem bugs and what to do about each one without using pesticides, as well as finding good bugs to leave alone. Each of those workshops facilitated deeper conversations about the harms that pesticides can cause and the importance of protecting themselves and fighting for alternatives. The workers ended the season with knowledge they can use next year, and pass on to other farmworkers if they don't come back to our area again. Most of the farmworkers we talked to, however, plan to be back in the same place next season, and we ended the season with stronger relationships with those farmworkers that Toxic Free NC can build on next year. We are building a network of farmworkers ready to engage in advocacy, or serve as resources to their friends and coworkers about their work rights and about organic gardening.

Some of these workers will participate in focus groups on pesticides and reproductive health with us before they leave, providing us with information we can use to educate more workers next year. And we will rely on the relationships we have built this year to help spread the word, educate others, refine our work, and involve more farmworkers next year. As the harvest season ends here, I am grateful to all of the farmworkers who welcomed our visits, took time to talk with us, and gave us feedback to improve our work after completing their own long, difficult workdays.