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Keeping pests—and pesticides—out of day care

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There's a reason we endearingly call our kids rug rats: They spend a lot of time crawling on the floor. Unfortunately, so do ants, cockroaches and spiders. And more unfortunately, when we spray baseboards and bomb carpets with bug killer, our kids are cruising on their hands and knees through pesticides.

Raleigh-based Toxic Free NC recently published a survey of 89 day care centers (PDF) in 13 counties, including Chatham and Wake. Of those polled, 53 percent—or 47 day cares—reported using bug bombs, which can expose children and staff to toxic pesticides.

A facility's pesticide use and its pest problems aren't included in its star rating.

Integrated pest management, or IPM, as it's known, is an effective and less toxic way to get rid of insects in buildings. IPM practices include sealing cracks in walls and floors where insects can sneak inside. Your dirty dishes are a cockroach's all-you-can-eat buffet, so wash dishes, clean garbage cans and dumpsters, and throw away trash regularly. Don't leave water standing in the sink; it's an insect's favorite swimming hole.

Under the N.C. School Children's Health Act, public schools have to switch to IPM, but child care centers are not covered under this state law.

ToxicFree NC suggests that parents ask their child care provider about pesticide use:

  • Are baseboard spraying or fogging ever used?
  • Are pesticides used while children are present?
  • Does the day care keep records of pest control applications? If so, can parents see them?
  • Are parents notified before pesticides are sprayed?
  • What is the provider's pest management policy? Does it call for least-toxic integrated pest management?

The Environmental Protection Agency has set guidelines for IPM in schools; the same recommendations can apply to day care centers.

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