In Canada, more than half of all children ages 6 months to 5 years spend the largest part of their waking hours in early learning and child care facilities. During those hours, an important part of their time is spent on or near the ground, floor, and other areas where potentially harmful pests and pesticide residues may be present.
Because of their lower body weight, stage of development, and rapid metabolism, infants and toddlers are much more susceptible to pesticide poisoning than adults, according to The Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment
They eat, drink, and breathe more than adults do, so they not only come into closer contact with more indoor pollutants, but are also more sensitive to them (since they will get a bigger dose per body size compared to adults). Young children also explore the world by touching objects and putting their hands in their mouths, which increases the risk of exposure to pesticides
and cleaning products.
Despite all this, environmental health standards in child care facilities across the country still lag behind those of schools and universities, where children are older and better equipped to resist environmental exposures. Unlike the latter, which are more uniformly regulated, “child care licensing, permitting, and oversight occur on a variety of levels, resulting in a fractured regulatory landscape.” Some of the reasons for this situation include:
- Licensing guidelines and quality review systems emphasizing infection control and cleanliness may encourage some child care facilities to use pesticides over other prevention-based approaches to pest management
- Tight budgets in the child care industry may prevent centers from using greener products and focusing on pest hazard mitigation and elimination
- Teaching child care staff is not sufficiently educated about environmental exposures and may not understand the importance of developing child care-specific resources on safe cleaning and sanitization
Many of the pests found in child care facilities are labeled as ‘public health pests
,’ having the ability to spread and cause disease or pathogens to anyone they come into contact with, destroy property, contaminate food, and upset parents and staff.
Rodent species such as the brown rat or the black rat pose serious health risks
if they gain access to food production and storage areas by altering the food and increasing the risk of food poisoning. Cockroaches, especially the German cockroach
, can breed by the thousands in play rooms and cafeterias and can increase the allergic response in children with asthma. The same goes for the apparently innocent ants, which can forage for food in classrooms and food disposal areas and spread pathogens. Stinging insects, mosquitoes, flies, and bed bugs are also prevalent in child care centers and can not only transmit life-threatening diseases to undeveloped children, but also disrupt the learning environment.
Working with a Pest Control Company for IPM Services in Child Care Facilities
Child care centers are encouraged to adopt an IPM approach
and use it as a conceptual framework for preventing pests and pesticide hazards from interfering with the center's operations and amenities. The first step towards implementing IPM in your childcare facility is to work with a responsible, experienced, and qualified pest control professional whose services will include, among other things:
- Defining a pest monitoring program. Your pest control professional will develop a written plan that will set the goals of the program and describe its inclusion into existing procedures. The program will include regular inspection of problem areas, use of glue boards and traps for pest identification, and record keeping.
- Assessing the site. Your pest control professional will conduct a thorough assessment of the facility and predict which pests may create problems, and when and where are these problems most likely to occur. He will also make recommendations for structural repairs and physical, cultural, and biological measures to deny pests entry and access to food and water.
- Communicating effectively. Regular communication between staff and pest control professionals regarding safe pest control practices and pest monitoring results will significantly reduce children’s exposure to pest hazards.
- Controlling pests. Your pest control professional will use the least hazardous pest control methods to eliminate existing pest populations and prevent future infestations. If physical and biological measures are ineffective and pesticides are required, the pest control professional will:
- Use only the minimum amount of pesticide necessary to control the pest and choose only products approved by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada
- Use them by need and not by schedule
- Notify staff and parents of each application and work with the child care center to ensure compliance with Canada’s notification requirements
- Schedule applications for when the facility and grounds are unoccupied
- Ensure the removal from the area where the application will take place of all toys and items handled by children
- Evaluating and reporting. The pest control professional will constantly assess the effectiveness of IPM control measures taken and ensure good recordkeeping.
The most effective way to control pests in early learning and day care centers is to address the cause of the problem directly through the use of Integrated Pest Management. Not only does the use of IPM protect children and staff from the dangerous effects of pesticides, but also promote pest control methods that can save time, money, and energy. Request an initial inspection from your local pest control professional
to determine if children and staff in your child care center are exposed to common pest hazards.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid garden