BY SUSAN SHERRING, OTTAWA SUNFIRST POSTED: THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2015 07:16 PM EDT | UPDATED: THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2015 07:34 PM EDTDr. VerBY SUSAN SHERRING, OTTAWA SUN
There’s just something totally upside down in this town when we can’t use pesticides to kill the weeds on our lawns, but going into a school full of children and blasting cockroaches with pesticides is somehow OK.
Yes, aside from the problem of using pesticides, apparently cockroaches sometimes curl up and get cozy inside our schools.
But not to worry.
At a hastily called news conference on Wednesday by the Ottawa Public Health department, officials were quick to tell reporters the ill effects being felt by staff and students at the Adult High School and Charles H. Hulse weren’t really from the pesticide itself, but the solvents mixed with the pesticide.
And the symptoms, while irritating, aren’t long lasting.
Well … tell that to the parent whose child has been suffering.
“I don’t believe I said we’re not concerned about pesticides. We are concerned to always investigate when we get reports of illness, so we have taken it seriously to make sure we find out more about those symptoms and we’ve done health assessments,” said Dr. Vera Etches with OPH.
“What we’ve found is that those health symptoms that are occurring are not consistent with the toxic effect of pesticide use. What we want to do is to make sure that people don’t have any health impact so what we’re looking at doing is making sure that if there’s a solvent there and it’s creating an odour and that’s causing irritation and sore throats and headaches, that that is also removed. So we continue to want to address the problem.”
So the solvent, not the pesticide, is the problem?
And that of course is why the OPH doesn’t see any need to ban this particular pesticide for use in schools.
Raise your hand if you’re a parent — make that a parent who loves children — and you feel OK about this toxic solution being used at their school.
But the OPH insists a ban isn’t required as health hazards aren’t created by their appropriate, short-term and limited use to control specific infestations of this type.”
The whole story just seems wrong from top to bottom. (Or maybe that’s bottom to top, this whole thing is just so mixed up.)
Things weren’t any clearer at a news conference earlier in the day at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, a board which includes Charles H. Hulse Public School, the Adult High School and Rideau High School — three schools that have been identified as having the pesticide used in recent months. Rideau was back in September 2014, and the school board pointed out they had’t received any complaints following the use of the pesticide.
Well, that’s great, except of course, until parents knew about the use of pesticides, they had no way of correlating their child’s symptoms to the use of pesticides.
It would well be children at Rideau were affected, but never thought to question safety at the school.
At this point, we likely will never know for sure.
And speaking of not knowing, turns out the board couldn’t readily put its hands on a list of schools under its jurisdiction that had the pesticide used at its schools.
But they’re working on it!
So incredibly frustrating.
But back to the weeds.
Would the cockroach-killing pesticide end the blight of weeds on our lawns and soccer fields?
Apparently, Ottawa Health just isn’t sure.
Well, would it be legal to use?
If it’s as safe inside as they’re telling us, how bad could it be in the great outdoors?
Don’t put any money on that one.
OTTAWA CARLTON RESPONDS
Responding to Concerns About the Use of Insecticides in Schools
Last week, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board initiated a review of the use of insecticides in schools in response to the recent incident at Charles H. Hulse Pulse School. There has been considerable media coverage and public discussion on this important topic. Many questions have been raised, and the school district has been and continues to work with our regulatory partners to answer these questions.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?
Concerns have been raised about the possible health effects of pesticides used. The active ingredient in the insecticides was Propoxur (1-2%). This pesticide has been authorized for use in Canada since the 1950’s. Health Canada has recently changed where this pesticide can be used, but it has been used extensively in Canada without health concerns in the past. We have been advised by Ottawa Public Health that based on the application used at the school, no long term health effects are anticipated. They also advised that the symptoms that were experienced by students and staff may have arisen from the solvent used as a carrier for the pesticide rather than propoxur itself. The solvent is non-toxic but may cause reversible irritant effects. More detailed information is available in the fact sheet prepared by Ottawa Public Health.
Charles H Hulse Public School – Insecticides were applied at the school to eliminate cockroaches. The insecticide was applied in three areas of the school on Saturday, April 11, 2015. The application did not involve any area of the school used by the International Languages Program. On Monday, April 13th, there was a noticeable odor in the school; the product standards identify a three day period for any odors to dissipate. In response, the school district increased ventilation and undertook additional cleaning to address the odor.
An investigation was initiated and it was learned that the contractor used a different product than that which was scheduled for use. Some staff and students began experiencing itchy ears and eyes and reports of those types of symptoms continued over the week; parents were advised to monitor their children. The school district worked with Ottawa Public Health, the Ministries of Labour and Environment and Health Canada. Although the school was deemed a safe work site, the school district decided to close the school on Friday, April 17th to undertake three days of intensive ventilation and cleaning. On Monday, April 20th, the odor returned.
Adult High School –Insecticides were applied in a kitchen preparation area of the school on April 8th and April 10th. The same product was used at Adult High School as those used at Charles H. Hulse. There were no reports of odor or side effects at that time. However, in the past two days, as part of our ongoing deliberations about the use of insecticides, information about this application was shared with students and staff. Since then, two staff members have advised that they did experience symptoms. Our partners from Ministry of Labour and Ottawa Public Health have attended the school and have requested that two drawers in the kitchen area be cleaned and removed to ensure there is no residual odor. This work has been done and a second cleaning will be done this evening. Students and staff have been notified.
Rideau High School – In the course of our investigation about the use of insecticides in schools, it came to our attention that insecticides were applied at Rideau High School in September 2014. The insecticide applied includes the chemical Propoxur. However, the particular product used at Rideau High School was not exactly the same as that used at Charles H. Hulse and contains a lower percentage of the chemical in question. No reports of symptoms were received at the time of application. On Wednesday, April 23rd information was shared with students, staff and parents about the application in September.
Other schools – The school district is currently doing an investigation of about the use of insecticide in schools and more information will be posted on the school district website at www.ocdsb.ca.