MARTINEZ -- The Martinez Unified School District plans to explore ways to reduce the use of potentially harmful pesticides on school grounds.
A group of concerned parents has been asking the school board to amend its integrated pest management plan. Such plans call for the least toxic methods possible to control weeds, insects and vermin.
Superintendent Rami Muth and board members Bobbi Horack and Deidre Siguenza on Monday recommended that the board develop an advisory committee, including representatives from each school, two board members, a district staffer and a representative from the city of Martinez.
The committee will review the district's existing integrated pest management policy and current practices and identify resources, best practices, personnel needs and costs to develop a revised policy and budget.
In August, the district will solicit members from the community with the goal of having the first committee meeting in September. In November, the group will report its recommendations to the school board.
Muth noted that the district's current integrated pest management policy meets and exceeds state standards. She also said the issue needs further research to develop a policy that fits the Martinez district.
"I think that your steps to get rid of known carcinogens in the classrooms and on the fields will make our schools safer," Sharon Funk said. "I appreciate the fact that you are taking it seriously."
Wendy Ke, whose daughter is in kindergarten at John Swett Elementary, asked the board to consider removing known carcinogens from the list of herbicides the district uses until the new recommendations are presented in November.
Under state law, at the beginning of each school year districts must tell parents which pesticides are likely to be used on campuses. In August, the Martinez school district sent a letter listing the herbicides Round Up Pro, Turflon Ester, Gallery 75 Dry Flowable and Surflan.
These products contain known and probable carcinogens, toxins and ingredients that may disrupt the body's hormones or reproductive system, according to Pesticide Watch, a California advocacy group.
Children may be especially sensitive to health risks associated with pesticides because their internal organs are still developing, they eat and drink more than adults relative to their body weight, and they have more exposure to pesticides because they play on floors and lawns and tend to put things in their mouths, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Advocates believe pesticide exposure may contribute to cancer, autism, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and birth defects among children.
At a minimum, the district should ban products that include known carcinogens, neurotoxins and those that are linked to reproductive disorders, said Dana Perls, community organizer with Pesticide Watch, a California advocacy group.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.