PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


MARCH 21, 2001

Janet Zeller (336) 982-2691
Denise Lee (704) 826-8116


Today at a press conference in Wilmington, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League launched a statewide campaign to protect North Carolina school children from toxic chemical exposures. The group plans to work with parents and school officials to determine the level of environmental toxins in the state’s schools and to implement programs to reduce or eliminate these threats.

BREDL released a new national report called Poisoned Schools: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions. The report details the dangers to children attending schools located near toxic air pollution sources and contaminated sites. Poisoned Schools also reports that routine application of pesticides harms children by causing cancer, brain damage, and immune system suppression.

“Parents are justifiably concerned about protecting their children from gun violence at schools, but they are unaware that toxic chemicals kill,” said Denise Lee, community organizer fro BREDL. She continued, “This report offers a clear solution to this invisible threat.”

In letters delivered today to Board of Commissioners chairpersons in New Hanover, Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, and Cherokee counties, BREDL made the following recommendations for board action on new school siting and pesticides programs:

Participation in the school site acquisition process should be available to parents, age-appropriate students, teachers, and community members.

To ensure precautionary approaches are taken when locating new schools, a complete site history, site visit, survey of surrounding potential sources of contamination, and testing and evaluation of potential health risks to children should be part of any site proposal. When there is cause for concern, another site should be chosen.

Under no circumstances should a school be built on top of a hazardous waste dump, garbage dump, or other landfilled property.

When other sites are not available, the proposed school property should be cleaned up to standards that protect children.

No source of contamination, such as a landfill or containment facility, should be built or established within 1,000 feet of a school or Head Start facility. Industrial or other facilities releasing chemicals should never be built or located within 2 miles of a school.

Participation in a school Integrated Pest Management committee or other formal group should be available to parents, age-appropriate students, teachers, and community members.

Preventive and alternative pest controls should be used first. These include sanitation measures that eliminate pest habitats, structural remedies that block pest access, and maintenance measures that prevent pest infestations.

Use least-toxic pesticides only if pests present a documented health or safety hazard and never for strictly aesthetic purposes.

If pesticides are used, they should be the least toxic available and their use strictly limited. Under no circumstances should pesticides be used that can cause cancer, reproductive damage, nervous system damage, disruption of the hormonal (endocrine) system, damage to the immune system, or acute toxicity.

If least-toxic pesticides are to be applied, parents, students, and teachers should be notified in advance through written notification and posting. Notification should include what pesticides will be used, the health effects associated with exposure, contact information, documentation as to why use is necessary, and the right to request alternatives.

Similar letters will go this week to elected officials in all 100 North Carolina counties. Many of BREDL’s 37 chapters will provide assistance to parents and school officials in assessing and eliminating children’s toxic exposures.

Organized in 1984, BREDL is a statewide grassroots environmental organization. Their staff and volunteers provide technical and community organizing assistance to local groups.

Publication and national release of the report was coordinated by The Center for Health, Environment and Justice.


Download the report

Poisoned Schools: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions - a project of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice PO Box 6806 Falls Church, VA 22040 (703) 237-2249