School IPM: Children's Environmental Health Program

Protect and Enhance the Nation's Natural Resource Base and Environment
Research Year: 

Many schools in Phoenix and elsewhere in Arizona routinely spray their facilities with pesticides to control an assortment of fire ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes and bark scorpions. Each month the treatments are repeated as part of an outdated pest prevention program that often fails to work. Unacceptable pest populations remain a problem in these schools. At the same time, while the pesticides are applied and reapplied, parents pull their children out of school for a day or two each month to avoid pesticide exposure.

Description of Action: 

An integrated pest management program (IPM) for schools began in Arizona in 2000 and has continued to expand over the past five years. The goal is to control pests effectively while avoiding reliance on chemical pesticides. The program is now part of a national and international environmental health effort connecting school districts in Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and Sonora, Mexico. The goal is to control pests while avoiding reliance on chemical pesticides. Each school develops a plan to identify pests, find out where they are coming from, and prevent their entry into buildings. Custodial and kitchen staff are involved in training. Openings around pipes and conduits are sealed, closing off crawl spaces, and drains and building slabs are repaired to inhibit entry of cockroaches and other pests. Trees may be trimmed back, and bird roosting areas limited to places where their droppings won't contaminate walkways and other high-traffic areas.

The program spread from the pilot schools in metropolitan Phoenix to the Gila River Indian Reservation and Hopi Reservation in fall 2002. One school had spent nearly $7,000 in pest control annually until the school IPM program brought the cost down to a few hundred dollars instead. During 2006, the entire Hopi school district (elementary through high school), along with all tribal government buildings, achieved very high standards of IPM implementation. Pesticide applications were completely stopped, and pests were controlled though improved pest-proofing of buildings, alternate sanitation practices, and use of reduced-risk controlled products.

The School IPM program continues to expand: UA faculty have partnered with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission, Arizona/Sonora Commission, Arizona Asthma Coalition, EPA Region 9, National IPM Institute, International Urban IPM Association, Environmental Strategic Alliance entities, ASU, the Navajo Housing Authority, and Phoenix Children's Hospital. The ultimate goal is statewide implementation of school IPM practices.

A Valley Metro School Coalition formed by UA faculty in 2003 to implement IPM in member schools had expanded 2006 to include 22 school districts in the Phoenix metropolitan area, plus the Hopi Reservation schools. A program was established in Tucson Unified School District and in the Nogales Arizona/Sonora border area. The Arizona/Sonora Commission plans to expand IPM to all schools in Sonora, Mexico, showcasing the model process along the border regions.


For the coalition of 22 school districts in Arizona that are implementing the school IPM program, there was a 71 percent reduction in pesticide applications, and a 78 percent reduction in pest complaints from 2000-2006. The number of students enrolled in these schools represents more than 31 percent of all state-registered students in 216 school districts-roughly 304,000 youth. The IPM final evaluation for the pilot program in the Kyrene School District in 2000 showed that the three Phoenix schools reduced their pesticide applications by 90 percent and kept pest populations below 85 percent of their original levels. The costs associated with IPM were no more than a traditional program. The Arizona state program for IPM in schools has become a model for developing children's environmental health programs in schools across the United States.

Indoor Air Quality technologies are now introduced to all participants involved in the IPM Coalition, making this a broader Children's Environmental Health Program. Child care facilities and support entities are now also joining the coalition, including certain UA faculty, Arizona Department of Health Services Breath Mobile participants and pediatric asthma specialists from the Phoenix Children's Hospital. The latter are conducting studies on the prospective health benefits of school IPM programs by monitoring students with asthma. The study involves a school district with the highest frequency of asthma attacks resulting in emergency room visits in the state. Asthma triggers include certain pest allergens, such as cockroaches, and types of pesticides. Schools that are on IPM programs not only have fewer cockroaches, but also less pesticide in the environment.

Funding Agencies: 

University of Arizona Cooperative Extension; Environmental Protection Agency

Conact Name: 
Dawn Gouge
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

Maricopa Agricultural Center

37860 W. Smith-Enke Road

Maricopa, AZ 85239-3010

Tel: (520) 381-2223 ext. FAX (520) 568-2556