Concerned Citizens for a Safe MSAD51 School Site

Maine Toxics Action Coalition
Toxics Action Center

For Immediate Release: Contact:

March 21, 2001 Will Everitt, Toxics Action Center: 207.871.1810
Cathy Willauer, Concerned Citizens for a Safe MSAD School Site: 207.829.3902

Kathleen McGee, Maine Toxics Action Coalition: 207.666.3598

Keeping Kids Safe From Toxic Chemicals

Parents and Environmental Advocates Call for Toxic-Free Schools

Cumberland– Standing in front of an old municipal dump, a group of parents and public health organizations called for toxic-free schools and released the report, “Poisoned Schools: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions.” The report calls for the safe siting of schools as well as toxic pesticide reform on school grounds.

Citizens stood next to the Drowne Road Dump where the MSAD 51 school board has proposed to build the future middle school serving Cumberland and North Yarmouth. Citing the report, parents voiced concerns about sending their kids to a school that is right next to an old dumpsite.

“Children are our most valuable, yet most vulnerable population,” said Will Everitt, with Toxics Action Center. “Children should be going to safe schools, not schools next to dumpsites.”

Parents in Cumberland have formed a local group, Concerned Citizens for a Safe MSAD 51 School Site, to convince the school board to abandon its plan to build next to the dumpsite and choose a safer site.

"An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Dr. Tim Hayes, a resident of Cumberland, director of Maine Medical Center's blood bank, and father of three. "Exposures to toxic chemicals can damage the health and intellect of children"

"I am concerned because the dump poses unknown hazards. I am think a better site should be found because it could hurt us in the long run to build an 8 acre school site next to an old 9 acre dump," said Tina Fogg, a local resident and member of the MSAD 51 school selection committee.

Although the dumpsite has been closed since 1992, there is no way of knowing what toxins were dumped at the site. The Environmental Protection Agency has admitted that all landfills can be expected to eventually leak. The Maine Department of Education has already voiced concern about the Drowne Road site and "its future potential health implications."

Citing the "Poisoned Schools" report, parents called for a new site that was at least 1,000 feet away from landfills, hazardous waste sites, and hazardous waste facilities.

In addition to addressing the public health concerns of improper school siting, the report released by the group detailed ways to keep existing schools safe from chemicals and toxic pesticides.

The Maine Toxics Action Coalition, an alliance of 18 public health and environmental groups in the state, is using the report to launch a campaign to reform the use of pesticides. The group announced the launch of a campaign to petition the Board of Pesticide control to change its rules on pesticides in schools. Maine Toxics Action Coalition is calling for a ban on the use of the most toxic pesticides in schools in the state.

The report highlighted the dangers of using neurotoxins in close proximity to children and the need for schools to use integrated pest management policies that use least-toxic pesticides only as a last resort for controlling pests.

“Pesticides are toxic by design and spraying them near children is dangerous," said Kathleen McGee, coordinator of the Maine Toxics Action Coalition. "Children are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, like pesticides, because of their still developing brains and bodies, immature immune systems, longer life span remaining for disease to develop, and their small size. Few toxic chemicals are tested, those that are have been rated for an adult with a body weight of 160 lbs. Clearly these toxics are more hazardous to our kids."

A recent survey by the Department of Agriculture found that nearly 60% of Maine's schools spray pesticides indoors and 64% spray outdoors at least once a year. Despite this, nearly 85% of schools in the state either lacked pesticide use policies or were unaware of such policies. The survey also found that over half of those applying pesticides in schools are not licensed, as required by Maine law.

"We are spraying toxic pesticides in our schools regularly instead of finding less toxic management practices," said McGee, “Pesticides and other toxic chemicals have been implicated in a dramatic increase in autism, ADD, ADHD, and other learning disabilities. The practice of routinely using pesticides in schools most stop.”

The Maine Toxics Action Coalition's pesticide reform campaign calls for:

Using preventative and alternative pest controls, such as sanitation measures that eliminate pest habitats and maintenance measures that prevent pest infestations.

Only using least-toxic pesticides as a last resort, and only if pests present a documented health or safety hazard: never using pesticides for strictly aesthetic reasons.

If pesticides are to be applied, parents, students, and teachers should be notified in advance through written notification and posting, including what pesticides are being used and their health effects.

"Toxic pesticides and children are a dangerous mix. It's time we child-proof our communities and keep toxic pesticides out of schools," said McGee.

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