IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. LAUSD stands for Los Angeles Unified School District. Believe it or not, LAUSD has been one of the pioneers in the field of integrated pest management in our country. What is IPM? Instead of blasting toxic pesticides at a cockroach crossing a classroom floor thus exposing the children and teacher to those chemicals, IPM puts its emphasis on exclusion. Seal up the holes, do not leave food crumbs in the room, keep it clean, and avoid providing hiding places for cockroaches to sneak in (like old cardboard boxes) and voila, the likelihood of an infestation diminishes greatly. Also, the precautionary principle guides the choices of chemicals that may be used. Rather than choose a pesticide because “it works” without knowing the long term damage it may cause, the team chooses chemicals that have been proven to be non-toxic or less toxic.
For 14 years LAUSD has been leading the way through the cooperation of every discipline in the organization. I sit on the advisory board. Despite the wars we see in the press every day, despite the complaints about the bureaucracy, the advisory board functions for the benefit of all the students and employees of the school district. The members include a teacher, a principal, maintenance and operations personnel, food services, parent volunteers, community workers, the health department, environmental safety, an integrated pest management expert and an outside medical advisor (me). We all come together in cooperation to advise this amazing program.
Considering the 1000 buildings, over 600,00 students, and 60,000 teachers and personnel, the amount of pesticides LAUSD uses in one month adds up to ounces and grams instead of gallons or barrels. And the list of what is acceptable is limited to the least toxic pesticides we have available.
I have no doubt this program is contributing to reduced risk for future neurological disease and cancer in the students and employees because they are not being exposed to the more toxic pesticides during each school day. It also demonstrates that people from diverse units who share the same values can overcome their differences and work together for the greater good of all.
Thus I feel very privileged to be amongst members of the team to be honored this coming Friday for the 14th anniversary of the program and in honor of Earth Day.
Congratulations to LAUSD and to the whole IPM team.