January 2001                

Pesticide Industry Group RISE Communication

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has asked the Department to share with school administrators the following information. In September, a pesticide industry group known as RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) wrote to more than 20,000 school facilities managers nationwide, including those in New York State. The materials distributed by RISE promote pesticide use with deceptive claims and irrelevant anecdotes about the health and environmental impacts of pesticides.  The Attorney General wants you to be fully informed of the correct information so that you can make pest control decisions to best protect the health of students, staff and visitors.

While ostensibly promoting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) at schools, the materials sent by RISE actually encourage continued excessive reliance on pesticides by schools.  This central role for pesticides runs contrary to the positions of the Department, the Attorney General’s office and countless other governmental and citizens’ groups. However, it is understandable that RISE advocates this role, given that its mission, as set forth at its web site, is to: (1) provide a strong unified voice for the specialty pesticide industry, (2) positively influence public opinion and policy; and (3) promote the use of industry products.  (See the following web site, http://www.acpa.org/rise/intro.htm., and note that this is not the RISE web site to which recipients of the RISE letter were directed.)

 In advocating pesticide use, RISE makes numerous deceptive safety or irrelevant claims.  For instance, the claim that “pesticides pose no risk to the health of children or adults when used according to label instructions” is not only false, but is specifically prohibited by federal regulations from appearing on the label of any pesticide product.  The reference to the West Nile virus in New York City is largely irrelevant to school settings, given that the virus victims were elderly, and transmission is believed to have occurred in the evening during the summer.  Similarly, the malaria reference is irrelevant given no infected mosquitoes were ever found. 

The Attorney General is concerned that RISE’s mailing will be relied upon by school facilities managers and administrators, and that its deceptive claims might be repeated to parents, students and school staff.  Last last spring, the Attorney General released a report, Pesticide Use At New York Schools:  Reducing the Risk.  That report discusses the risk of pesticide use at schools and offers a model pest management policy for schools.  (Other reports from the Attorney General released las spring might also prove useful and are available at http://www.oag.state.ny.us.  Print copies can be obtained by calling (518) 486-9750)

While the public should not simply accept the risks associated with severe infestations at schools, it is not necessary to expose our children to highly toxic substances in the name of pest control.  Properly planned and implemented IPM programs can serve to control pests without introducing toxic materials into the school environment.

The University of the State of New York * The State Education Department * Albany, NY 12234 * www.nysed.gov

[ Letter from RISE that prompted this memo ]

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