Environmental Health and Environmental Education

Adopted March 2007 – Revised May 2021– Education and Health & Community Concerns Commissions

California State PTA believes all children and youth have the right to live and attend school in a healthy environment free from avoidable environmental hazards.

California State PTA seeks to educate its members to recognize the importance of a healthy environment and the potential dangers that environmental contamination poses for children’s developing minds and bodies. PTA supports the implementation of a comprehensive K-12 environmental education curriculum for all students.

Children are at an increased risk of cancer, neurobehavioral impairment, organ damage, weakening of the immune system, and other health problems as a result of exposure to both active and inert ingredients in chemical agents and pesticides.  California State PTA believes that chemical agents and pesticides are by nature poisons, and exposure even at low levels may cause serious adverse health effects.

Children, because of their higher metabolism, their developing organs and life-systems, and their play behavior patterns, are particularly vulnerable to the health impact of chemical agents and pesticides.  Toxic substances can enter the body and travel in the bloodstream to internal organs.  Effects that are produced this way are called systemic. The internal organs most commonly affected are the liver, kidneys, heart, nervous system (including the brain) and reproductive system.

To protect the environment and human health, PTA urges its members to become knowledgeable about the environmental conditions in their schools and communities and about current efforts to protect or improve the local environment, both indoors and out.

PTAs are urged to work with their local school health councils and school wellness programs to develop and implement tools that will help them assess and address unhealthy environmental conditions in schools and communities.  Such conditions may include indoor air quality, high lead levels in water, exposures to chemical agents and pesticides stored near juvenile facilities or adrift in agricultural communities, and proximity to waste incinerators.

California State PTA supports the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This program does not prohibit all use of pesticides, but rather seeks to:

  • Minimize exposure to chemical agents and pesticides;
  • Emphasize non-chemical pest control methods;
  • Address the causes of pest infestation;
  • Require that a common-sense, environmentally sensitive approach to pest prevention be implemented; and
  • Implement a basic four-step process of inspection, monitoring and recording, determining and documenting treatment, and evaluating results.

IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and non-target organisms, and the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a resource guide for school administrators related to chemical management.  The sources of dangerous chemicals in schools are not always obvious.  The resource guide applies to any school that purchases, uses, stores, or disposes of chemicals or products containing dangerous materials.  Some of the most common dangerous chemical products in schools include:

  • Laboratory chemicals (e.g., acids, bases, solvents, metals, salts)
  • Industrial arts or “shop” classes (e.g., inks, degreasers)
  • Art supplies (e.g., paints, photographic chemicals)
  • Pesticides, fertilizers, and de-icers
  • Maintenance supplies and equipment (e.g., drain cleaners, floor stripping products, paints, oils, boiler cleaners, fuels, mercury switches and gauges)
  • Health care equipment (e.g., mercury thermometers).

California State PTA recognizes that protecting the environment and human health is a complex, interconnected and perpetual endeavor. PTA encourages schools, families, and communities to support environmental decision-making processes that are open to all and that are based on stewardship of the environment and concern for the people who live in it, especially the most vulnerable, our children.

California State PTA urges its unit, council and district PTAs to advocate for safer environments in and around schools by:

  • Supporting efforts at the federal, state, and local levels to eliminate the environmental health hazards caused by pesticide use;
  • Encouraging governmental bodies to regulate the use of pesticides in order to maximize state and local control;
  • Encouraging long-term solutions for the control of pests that will significantly lower children’s exposure to harmful chemicals by using the least toxic combination of pest control strategies; and
  • Supporting “right-to-know” legislation and regulations in order for parents and the community to be more aware of the environmental health hazards associated with the use of pesticides.


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