Pest Defense Interview with Veronika Carella

Pest Defense virtually met with Veronika Carella, the Legislative Director for the Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Coalition and former Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council (CEHPAC) Commissioner (2008-2020). After pesticide exposure at a public elementary school injured her children, Carella developed expertise on school IPM and testified during the passing of the Maryland IPM in Schools Law. Carella continues to improve children’s environmental health through her research and advocacy. This post has only a few of her comments, watch the full interview here.

Please provide some background about Maryland’s 1997 IPM in Schools lawii. Who proposed it? What were the motivations behind developing the law?

I believe poor indoor air quality in our existing schools led to our success passing this law. In my county alone, Howard County, we had more than 400 children on “Home and Hospital Care” in 1997. This means students could not enter public school facilities due to health issues including pesticide sensitivity. Instead, these children received taxpayer funded tutors at locations other than a public school.

The 1997 law mandates schools to notify parents, guardians and school staff of pesticide applications in school buildings. The law, also, requires that schools develop and implement IPM policy and plans for their school district. The state expanded the law in 1998 to include the school grounds in addition to the interior.  Under Maryland Law IPM means “the use of one or more pest control methods including sanitation, structural repair, nonchemical methods, and, when nontoxic options are unreasonable or have been exhausted, pesticides in order to: (i) Minimize the use of pesticides; and (ii) Minimize the risk to human health and the environment associated with pesticide applications.”[ii]

Assessing implementation of Maryland’s 1997 IPM in Schools Law. When did you begin working on your report on the status of IPM in Maryland’s schools? What prompted this report?

Recent public hearings on pesticide regulation and oversight bills informed Maryland’s state legislature of issues with the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) implementation of the IPM in Schools Law. This caused the legislature to request that the MDA consult with CEHPAC and Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to produce an “IPM in Schools Report” by December 1, 2022.

CEHPAC issued its Summary of Findingsiii that included the following recommendations,

  1. Clarify the IPM in Schools Law’s components and state agency requirements.
  2. Review and update the existing IPM school resources and training materials currently posted on the website.
  3. Improve training for IPM coordinators and educate parents and guardians on the importance of IPM.
  4. Encourage school boards to make IPM policy, plans, and application records readily accessible to the public including green cleaning and practices that go beyond in improving indoor air quality.

If a school does not abide by these laws or does not have an IPM plan, what actions are taken to reinforce the law?

MDA inspections of school IPM systems uncover some issues and the MDA will send letters of warning.  There is no penalty for non-compliance. Maryland needs better enforcement of the IPM in Schools law and other laws designed to protect children and their environments from known hazards, including pesticides.

[ii]       MD Agriculture Article §5–208.1.
[iii] CEHPAC Summary of Findings
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