Pesticide Use at Portland Public Schools (PPS) Schools

Pesticide Use Overview | Pesticides on PPS 'Approved' List | Hazards of Pesticides Used on PPS Properties | Pesticide Use by School | Pesticide Use In Previous Years

Pesticide Use Overview

Historically, the Portland (Oregon) Public School district has used many pesticides on its landscapes and also in school buildings. The district uses herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, bird poisons, and more.  Pesticides have been applied by district staff, custodians, pest control contractors, and others.  Herbicides (weed-killers) have been applied primarily by district groundskeepers, though Portland Bureau of Parks & Recreation staff have also applied weed-killers on some PPS athletic fields.  Some sports organizations may have applied herbicides to PPS fields, though such use is not authorized.

The most common pests of PPS schools that have been treated with pesticides are landscape weeds or grass, nuisance ants, and mice and rats.  Cockroaches, pigeons, and yellowjackets are also treated with pesticides.  Carpenter ants, flies, fleas, silverfish, beetles, meal moths, spider mites, and termites are less common, but have also been treated with pesticides at some schools in recent years.  In past years the district issued insecticides to custodians or other school staff for the purpose of spraying rooms for head lice.  This practice is contrary to head lice control recommendations by federal health officials, and has been discontinued.  Nobody should be applying pesticides to PPS facilities for head lice control, though unauthorized applications may be occurring.  The district still issues insecticides to custodians for use outdoors to control wasps or yellowjackets.  There has been at least one misuse of this product in recent years by a custodian who used it indoors in a kindergarten classroom in an effort to control ants.

Landscape pesticide (including herbicide) use:  Historically, the pesticides used in the largest volumes on PPS properties were weed-killers including Casoron, Snapshot, Roundup, and others (see Pesticide Use in Previous Years below).  Overall use of herbicides on PPS landscapes has dropped dramatically in recent years, primarily due to the phasing out of use of Casoron, a long-lasting granular weed-killer which was previously applied in very large quantities at nearly every school.  PPAP is very pleased that the district is phasing out the use of this pesticide, whose active ingredient is classified by the US EPA as a 'possible human carcinogen.'  However, we are disturbed that other high hazard pesticides remain on the 'approved' list for use on PPS schoolgrounds.   Also, PPS administrators have told us that the use of herbicides may increase if grounds maintenance budgets are restored.  These are trends that seem to contradict the spirit of the new pesticide reduction policy.  We do not have any data about what pesticides are used on PPS landscapes by Portland Parks & Recreation, nor in what quantities.

Indoor pesticide use:  It is difficult to assess total usage of pesticides (primarily insecticides and rodenticides) indoors.  The most recent (2001) data records that PPAP has received from PPS and their previous pest control contractor contain enough discrepancies that it appears futile to attempt to calculate total volumes of the many different products that were used.   Also, PPAP has no information about pesticide applications by PPS custodians.  It is also not possible for us to evaluate whether pesticide use indoors has declined or not relative to previous years, as we do not have adequate baseline data of past pesticide use available for comparison.

Despite the lack of hard data, there are some indications that indoor pesticide usage is starting to decline.  The district has a new indoor pest control contractor for the 2002-2003 school year.  The new contractor is working to implement non-chemical pest exclusion measures in some schools that have had frequent pest problems and frequent pesticide applications in the past.  Also, the district is currently revising its list of pesticides 'approved' for indoor use, and it appears that the number of pesticide products on this list will be reduced.  However, there are still a number of high hazard pesticides on the proposed list, and few or no guidelines in place to govern how they will be used indoors or in what quantities (these guidelines are being developed now).

Pesticides on PPS 'Approved' List(s)

There are over seventy pesticide products on the list(s) of pesticides approved for use in PPS schools or on landscapes:

Note: The lists above are in PPS's (first) Annual Report on Integrated Pest Management Practices (dated 5/11/02).  The district is currently revising the list of pesticides that will be permitted for indoor use on PPS properties.  A shorter proposed modified draft of the indoor list was distributed by the district's new pest control contractor at the 8/20/2002 External IPM Committee meeting.   Some revisions to this draft were proposed by the contractor, and PPAP raised concerns about some products on the list that contain active ingredients classified as likely human carcinogens and/or nerve poisons.  A revised final list has not been distributed by PPS.  PPAP believes that for now, the pest control contractor is using only products on the draft list. There have been no proposed revisions to the outdoor list.

Hazards of Pesticides Used (or Approved for Use) on PPS Properties

Many high hazard pesticides (including herbicides) have been used on PPS properties in the past five years, or remain on the 'approved' lists and available for use.  These include pesticides with active ingredients that are classified as likely or possible human carcinogens, nerve poisons, reproductive hazards, environmental hazards, and more.  For more information about the hazards of pesticides used on PPS properties, see Hazards of Pesticides Used at PPS.

Pesticide Use Data by School

Note: The above pesticide use data does not include all pesticide applications made on PPS properties.  Data is included only for applications made by the pest control contractor or by PPS groundskeepers.  Applications made by school custodians or by Portland Parks & Recreation (or by any other organizations or individuals) are not included.  Also, PPAP believes that there may be errors in the information about which pesticide products were used and in what quantities in some of the indoor records provided by the pest control contractor.  We examined more detailed application and billing records than those linked above, and found a considerable number of entries with internal discrepancies that raised questions about the accuracy of the data.

PPS board policy calls for annual reporting about pesticide use and pest control practices.  PPAP is asking the district to publish pesticide use data, by school, in its annual State of the Building reports, and also to produce an annual summary of pesticide use and pesticide reductions district-wide.  To help with this campaign, see Insist on Your Right to Know.

Pesticide Use at PPS in Previous Years

Pesticide Use in 1996-1997
News Release: Portland School District Gets Poor Grades for Exposing Children to Cancer-Causing Pesticides
Full Report: Pesticide Use by the Portland School District, 1996-1997 (June 1998, PDF 8 pgs)

This site created and maintained by Portland Parents for Alternatives to Pesticides(PPAP). This page was last updated March 2003.