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Training program reduces pesticide risks at school

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

Only a small percentage of Georgia pesticide applicators are actually trained to do so. Some of these untrained applicators spray pesticides in schools, parks, athletic fields and roadways.

State regulations control restricted-use pesticides and contract pesticide applications. And the law requires training and certification for anyone who uses a restricted-use pesticide.

Lawn care companies and pesticide services must obtain licensing because they charge to apply pesticides. However, school employees, parks and recreation personnel and Department of Transportation workers aren’t required to attend training unless they use restricted-use pesticides.

Concerned by this practice, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent Frank Hancock and pesticide specialist Paul Guillebeau began educating public workers on the proper handling of non-restricted pesticides.

“They may have no training of any kind, and that makes me nervous,” Guillebeau said. “There are two big mistakes people make when applying pesticides – they use too much or they apply them when children are present. Applicators with no training may not recognize the risks.”

Guillebeau said recently school employees treated an infestation inside a public school with Sevin dust, a pesticide specified only for use on outdoor plants.

“A lot of parents are very concerned about how pesticides are used around their children,” Guillebeau said. “I think they would feel better knowing the people applying pesticides had some training.”

School, public office, parks and recreation and DOT personnel were all seeking pesticide safety training.

“I had several requests from the City of Stockbridge and the Henry County Board of Education to provide training for their employees who applied pesticides as part of their work,” said Hancock, Henry County extension agent. “We also received inquiries from the storm water department and the recreation department for similar training.”

The Georgia Competent Applicator of Pesticide Program was the answer. The program includes a three-hour pesticide safety overview and a test. It covers application and disposal, as well as other areas of concern.

“We hope this program will help to solve the problem without additional regulations,” Guillebeau said.

The first class was held on Feb. 26 for 32 members of the Henry County BOE. After completing the course, the board decided to prohibit janitors from spraying for insects around the school.

“The BOE decided to put together a team to work with pesticides rather than leaving it up to the individual janitors at each school,” Hancock said.

Two more classes were held in Henry County for the community garden association and City of Stockbridge employees. Some 83 individuals in Henry County have been trained through GCAPP so far with other sessions are planned.

“GCAPP has the potential to provide training in the safe use of pesticides to many more individuals who are actively engaged in the application pesticides around our schools, ball fields, parks and other public places,” Hancock said.

The GCAPP team also plans to present the program to the state school board.

The GCAPP program is available on the Web at www.ent.uga.edu/pesticide.htm. An interactive CD-Rom version of the program is in development.

A course is planned in Cobb County on Oct. 31. For more information, or to schedule a course, contact Guillebeau at (706) 542-2816 or bugman@uga.edu.

(April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)

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