Rachel's Precaution Reporter #32
Wednesday, April 5, 2006

From: BE SAFE ............................................[This story printer-friendly]
April 4, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: A fabulous new web-based library of documents has just become available to support precautionary action -- The BE SAFE Precautionary Policy Clearinghouse.]

The BE SAFE Precautionary Policy Clearinghouse is a library of documents on the web including precaution-based laws, policies, local ordinances and industry agreements on a range of issues.

In most cases, original documents are available in the library, so you can modify them for your local situation and your local officials won't even have to come up with their own language.

The BE SAFE campaign is adding new policies every month, and will soon expand the list of issue categories to include nuclear, solid waste, pesticides, and more.

Please help build this resource by sending any new policies or industry agreements to BE SAFE Coordinator Anne Rabe at anne@besafenet.com.

Here are the issue categories as of April 4, 2006:

Environmental Precaution

Genetically Modified Organisms

Hazardous Waste Transportation

Natural Resource Protection and Conservation

PVC Plastic (Polyvinyl Chloride or Vinyl)

Pollution Prevention


Toxic Chemicals

-- Chemical Regulation

-- Dioxin

-- Mercury -- Coming Soon

-- PBDE (Brominated Flame Retardants)

-- Persistent Toxic Chemicals

And here are some recent entries:

Washington State PBT Reduction Strategy

American Public Health Association Dioxin Resolution

Oakland CA City Council Dioxin Resolution

New Hampshire Dioxin Reduction Strategy

Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals

Copenhagen Chemicals Charter

European Chemical REACH Proposal

San Francisco CA Precautionary Purchasing Law

Maine Ban on Toxic Fire Retardants

Microsoft Phases Out PVC Packaging

Hats off to Anne Rabe and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice for making this important resource available.


From: www.greenschools.net ...............................[This story printer-friendly]
February 15, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: As we noted in Precaution Reporter #27, the Emeryville, California, School District has adopted a far-reaching policy to apply precaution throughout the school system. Emeryville's policies were based on an earlier report called The Little Green School House, by Josh Karliner. Your school district could take precautionary action, too.]

By Josh Karliner

One in five people who live in this country -- 55 million children, teachers, administrators, nurses and janitors -- spend their days in K-12 schools. Yet, our current school systems are threats to our children's health, models of unsustainability, and significant contributors to society's broader environmental and health problems.

Schools can provide a healthy environment for students and staff, while promoting ecological sustainability, by using alternatives to toxic chemicals, pursuing green building and maintenance practices, changing their resource consumption patterns, serving nutritious food, and teaching students to be stewards of their communities, the earth and its resources.

In this report we invite you to imagine this "green" reality. We have written it as an encouragement for all of us who interact with schools in our personal and professional lives. It aims to develop a positive vision of individual schools, districts, state wide educational efforts and a nation wide US school system that is healthy and sustainable.

This report expresses a positive vision for healthy, sustainable schools

Specifically, We Aim To:

** Provide a reality check, zeroing in on just how unhealthy and unsustainable our current educational institutions are.

** Present a basis for hope and optimism, drawn from the fabulous mosaic of possibility represented by the thousands of disparate efforts around the country geared toward creating green and healthy schools.

** Provide a blueprint for parents, educators, students, environmental and health advocates, school board members, and interested community members to collaborate on implementing this vision.

Building Blocks For The Little Green Schoolhouse

To help build the vision and organize the wonderful -- yet often disconnected -- efforts to create green and healthy schools, we present the metaphorical "Little Green Schoolhouse" as a framework.

The cornerstone or foundation of the building is the Precautionary Principle -- the basis of decision-making. Flowing from this foundation, there are four pillars that we can use to transform our schools to healthy, sustainable, dynamic learning centers:

1. Strive for a toxics-free environment

2. Use resources sustainably

3. Create a green and healthy space

4. Teach, learn, engage!

The Foundation: The Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle promotes policies and decision-making based on the concept of "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Rather than waiting for crises to occur, a proactive approach to addressing the issues of children's environmental health and the ecological impacts of schools can be based on the Precautionary Principle. Such an approach would:

** Take anticipatory action to prevent harm;

** Place the burden of proof on the proponent of a potentially harmful activity;

** Examine a full range of alternatives;

** Provide relevant communities with the right to know about potential harm; and

** Consider all the reasonably foreseeable costs of an activity.

A growing number of cities, including San Francisco, have adopted the Precautionary Principle as guidance for a range of decisions to promote environmental health and safety, to reduce costs, and to promote sustainability in government practices, including switching to non-toxic cleaners and environmentally sound purchasing.

The Los Angeles Unified School District adopted the Precautionary Principle as the foundation for its decision to provide the safest, least toxic approach to pest problems after children exposed to chemical herbicides suffered serious asthma attacks.

Pillar 1: Strive To Be Toxics Free

Children are one of our most vulnerable populations when exposed to toxic chemicals. Yet they are regularly exposed at school through the application of pesticides and powerful cleaning agents, poor building design and maintenance, lead paint contamination, and poor ventilation.

One-half of our nation's 115,000 schools have problems linked to indoor air quality. This can result in "sick building syndrome," increased absenteeism, and overall negative impacts on a child's ability to develop and learn.

Of the 48 pesticides most commonly used in schools, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies 22 as possible or probable carcinogens.

Many schools -- especially in poor districts -- are sited on or near toxic waste dumps, environmentally hazardous facilities, and other sources of pollution. In many places school districts have no environmental guidelines for school siting.

There are a growing number of efforts on the local, state and national levels to address this range of issues and to make our schools healthier places to attend and work in. Several organizations have succeeded in winning new funds and implementing new policies that, for instance, require schools to use "green" cleaning products, or adopt Integrated Pest Management guidelines.

Pillar 2: Use Resources Sustainably

Schools spend a lot of money to heat and light buildings and to purchase supplies. They can improve children's health, protect the environment and strengthen their financial situation by implementing alternative energy, construction and procurement policies.

Schools' energy use makes them significant contributors to air pollution, global warming, and U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Our K-12 schools' electricity consumption alone is equivalent to 42 days of U.S. imports of Saudi Arabian oil.

Taxpayers spend $6 billion a year on energy for schools but could reduce that amount by $1.5 billion through energy efficiency measures alone.

Many schools could become independent power producers by investing in clean renewable technologies such as solar and wind.

A growing number of districts are following "Healthy, High Performance School Guidelines" when building or renovating. These criteria recommend environmentally sound building materials, and the efficient use of energy and water. Benefits include a healthier learning and working environment for children and teachers, higher test scores, improved attendance, reduced operating costs, and reduced environmental impacts.

Schools are far behind many other sectors of society in recycling. Waste from schools -- primarily food and paper -- represents about 4 percent of the municipal waste stream. Many schools do not recycle and fewer still purchase recycled or "green" products.

For each ton of non-recycled office paper that a school district replaces with 30 percent post-consumer content, it uses 2,400 pounds less wood (about 7 trees), thereby helping save critical forest ecosystems.

As more schools purchase clean energy and recycled supplies, they can build demand, making these "green" products more economically competitive.

Pillar 3: Create A Green and Healthy Space

There is an alarming increase in diet-related disease among school-age children, connected, at least in part, to the quality of meals eaten at school.

The overwhelming majority of schools allow soft drinks and junk food to be sold on campus. The health costs of allowing junk food, fast food, and soda vending machines at school far outweigh any financial benefits these commercial entities provide.

Many districts and state governments have moved, or are moving, to ban junk food, fast food and soda from public schools.

Schools can produce healthy lunches in collaboration with local or regional small farmers via farm-to-school programs, which are expanding across the country. These programs also allow children to learn about nutrition and food systems.

Thousands of school garden and green schoolyard programs are thriving across the country. Teachers successfully teach to math, science and social studies standards, while inculcating nutrition and environmental stewardship concepts in these gardens.

Pillar 4: Teach, Learn, Engage!

Environmental education should be a central element in any child's education, helping children to understand and appreciate the natural world around them and to foster critical thinking and environmental stewardship.

Overall, almost two-thirds of all elementary and secondary teachers include environment in their curriculum. Yet the subject often remains isolated, with neither state nor federal government agencies putting sufficient resources into environmental education or teacher training.

There is a tremendous opportunity -- a grand teachable moment -- for children to learn about ecological sustainability, environmental health, nutrition, personal responsibility, and leadership through their hands-on participation in making their own schools healthier, more efficient, sustainable, and pleasant centers for learning.

Schools can implement hands-on, place-based curricula that will teach children how to audit, evaluate, and change their own school environments for the better.


This report provides a series of policy recommendations and actions for students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and school board members, as well as for local, state and federal government officials.

The report illustrates successful examples and points to key organizations that provide detailed recommendations and specific avenues for action at all levels.

The report calls for stakeholders to organize to convince local school boards to pass Healthy and Sustainable Schools Resolutions. Such resolutions can identify a series of specific goals and objectives for school districts to pursue through the implementation of a concrete action plan. (See sample resolution.)

Overall, this vision of building green and healthy schools, while teaching engaged children rooted in their communities, may be a far cry from today's reality. But we should not view it as impossible, and we should not let such reality get in the way of making a better world. Rather, building "The Little Green Schoolhouse" is a challenge to be met.

Read the Report.


From: www.greenschools.net ...............................[This story printer-friendly]
February 15, 2005


Sample School Board Resolution

[Rachel's introduction: Here is a sample resolution that your local school board could adopt to get the ball rolling toward precautionary action, to prevent harm to students and staff, and to improve the learning environment in the schools.]

Whereas -- Schools have the potential to make positive, tangible environmental change in the world while teaching students to be stewards of their communities, the earth and its resources;

Whereas -- Our current school systems often suffer from inadequate facilities that frequently use energy, water and other resources unsustainably; use pesticides, cleaning agents and other chemicals that pose health risks; and can result in "sick building syndrome" from indoor air pollution and poor ventilation;

Whereas -- Many schools across the nation are sited on or near toxic waste dumps, environmentally hazardous facilities, and other sources of pollution;

Whereas -- Schools are important consumers of natural resources, including energy, water, food, and paper, and generators of waste materials, including garbage, runoff, and air emissions, which contribute to the world's larger environmental problems like global warming, water and air pollution, and habitat destruction.

Whereas -- Children, teachers, and staff are regularly exposed to toxic chemicals at school, are offered poor and unhealthy food choices, and use and manage resources unsustainably resulting in negative impacts on their health and their ability to teach and learn.

Whereas -- This district expends considerable financial resources on chemical pest control, cleaning supplies, energy, water, office and school supplies, and educational activities (resolution could include specific statistics from the district on funds spent on specific resources);

Whereas -- This district has a considerable opportunity through its purchasing power to improve both the environment and its financial bottom line.

Whereas -- Many options and choices exist for schools to use natural resources more efficiently; to reduce, reuse, and recycle; to follow "Healthy, High Performance School Guidelines" for construction; to ban junk foodand soda and produce healthy lunches through local farm-to- school partnerships; to eliminate toxic chemicals; and to purchase (or produce) clean energy and recycled paper to protect our global environment.

Whereas -- There is a tremendous opportunity to teach children about ecological sustainability, environmental health and nutrition; meet math, science and social studies standards; integrate environmental education into curricula; and support students to become leaders in making their own school a healthier and more ecologically friendly place;

Whereas -- The Precautionary Principle has been adopted by a growing number of cities, as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District as a proactive approach to promote the safest, lowest risk way to protect people's health, the environment, and property; Recognizing all the excellent work already underway in the district in X, Y and Z, undertaken by parents, teachers, administrators, janitors, nurses and others;

Recognizing that this framework creates a long-term, inspiring vision that integrates and strengthens many efforts in our district.

Further recognizing that fully implementing this resolution will take time, and must be achieved in stages.

Be it resolved that to promote healthier, more environmentally sustainable schools and teach environmental leadership, the School Board hereby:

1. Adopts the Precautionary Principle as the foundation for its environmental policy. The Precautionary Principle includes the following elements: *Anticipatory Action; Right to Know; Alternatives Assessment; Full-Cost Accounting; Participatory Decision Process [see: City of San Francisco, Precautionary Principle Ordinance]

2. Calls on the district to develop an action plan to implement a proactive environmental policy based on the Precautionary Principlethat includes the following to be prioritized and implemented step by step:

2.1 The development and adoption of an Integrated Pest Management program and other policies to minimize or eliminate the use of hazardous pesticides and herbicides in schools.

2.2 An audit of cleaning materials used in district schools and the development of a plan to use the least toxic substances.

2.3 Mechanisms to ensure that new schools are not sited near or on environmental health hazards.

2.4 A program to ensure that new schools are built and existing schools refurbished following Healthy, High Performance school building criteria that mandate the use of environmentally sound building material, efficient use of energy, water and other resources, and the creation of a healthy learning environment for children.

2.5 A district-wide plan to improve the energy efficiency of schools, to increasingly rely on clean, renewable energy sources to power the district's facilities, and to ultimately transform schools into independent power producers by investing in clean renewable technologies such as solar and wind.

2.6 The creation of district-wide recycling and composting programs, along with the procurement of recycled office and classroom supplies.

2.7 Follow and build upon the examples of New York City, Chicago, Nashville, San Francisco and others and ban soda, candy, junk food and fast food from all school grounds.

2.8 Evaluate the district's school lunch program to ensure good nutrition and consider developing a farm-to-school program.

2.9 Encourage the development of school gardens and green schoolyards as hands-on learning tools that promote good nutrition, stewardship of the land, and that teach to standards.

2.10 Adopt frameworks that meet state standards and integrate environmental education and student participation into school-wide environmental initiatives, using partnerships with environmental education providers (non-profit and public agencies).

Source: "The Little Green Schoolhouse: Thinking Big About Ecological Sustainability, Children's Environmental Health and K-12 Education in the United States.." www.greenschools.net


From: San Francisco Independent Media Center ..............[This story printer-friendly]
April 3, 2006


The Precautionary Principle and Parents' Right-to-Know Los Angeles Unified School District Shares Its Secret of Success

[Rachel's introduction: It started with a worried Mom whose child got sprayed by accident with pesticides at school. Parents organized. They discovered the precautionary principle and decided Los Angeles schools could adopt it. After a long fight, in 1999 the nation's second-largest school district began taking a precautionary approach to pest management.]

by Robina Suwol**

Toluca Lake, Calif. -- Last week in Los Angeles environmentalists, parents, health advocates, and educators met before the Los Angeles Unified School Board to praise the efforts of the 2nd largest school district in the nation for working cooperatively with California Safe Schools (CSS), a children's environmental health organization, in creating the most protective pesticide policy for schools in the country.

The week long tribute to the policy ended on Saturday as parents,students, and community members, some coming from as far away as Sacramento, were treated to an innovative and interactive IPM Workshop at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Speakers included Caltech Microbiologist, Mitzi Shpak, Robert Hamm, Deputy Director of Los Angeles Unified Maintenance Operations, and Robina Suwol, Executive Director of California Safe Schools

The Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) began after children were inadvertently sprayed with an herbicide at Sherman Oaks Elementary School in 1998. The sustained success of this program is a point of pride for students, parents, and school administrators alike, all of whom worked together to implement the reform.

"Creating the first policy in the United States that embraced the Precautionary Principle and Parents Right to Know was groundbreaking. To see it so beautifully implemented and sustained is deeply gratifying," said Robina Suwol, founder and Executive Director of CSS.

IPM requires the use of methods to control pests and weeds that pose the lowest risk to human health. Because children are more sensitive to chemical exposures than are adults, IPM in schools is considered to be especially important to protect kids' health. The "precautionary principle," is the idea that if the consequences of an action are unknown, but are judged to have some potential for major or irreversible negative consequences, then it is better to avoid that action. Parents Right to Know, is the value that parents should be informed of any exposure to toxins their children may face while in the care of school administrators.

Dr. Cathie-Ann Lippman, a Beverly Hills physician who is actively involved with the implementation of the innovative pesticide policy congratulated the School Board, "Thank you for the courage to create this opportunity to improve the health of our community. With this common focus, working together, anything is possible -- including providing a healthy learning environment for our children, their children, and generations to come."

California Safe Schools is the only non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to protecting school children from pesticides in California. A coalition of more than fifty organizations and many individuals, CSS lead a successful campaign to implement the safest pesticide policy ever adopted in the United States protecting 800,000 children in the nation's second-largest school district.

Gloria Simosky, Florence Avenue Teacher added, "As the teacher representative on the IPM Team, I appreciate IPM's focus on reducing and eliminating toxic chemicals from the school site. IPM is a wonderful program that works to support the health of students and teachers. "

This policy has become a national model for schools and communities. A year after its policy breakthrough, CSS provided testimony and support for the California Healthy Schools Act 2000. This state law provided for education to schools by the Department of Pesticide Regulation for Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a "least-toxic" pest control policy, and Right to Know about pesticide exposure for every parent whose child attends public school K -- 12. Most recently, CSS successfully shepherded the passage of AB 405 (Montanez), which forbids the use of experimental pesticides on all California k-12 public school sites.

Robina Suwol schoolipm@yahoo.com 818-785-5515 Box 2756 Toluca Lake, California 91610

Copyright 2000-2006 San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center


From: Parliament Magazine ................................[This story printer-friendly]
April 3, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The European Union must take precautionary measures to prevent genetic contamination of conventional crops because Europe's farmers have a clear right to keep genetically modified organisms (GMO) out of their fields, says Friedrich Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, a member of the European Parliament.]

By Friedrich Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, MEP

European farmers and consumers widely refuse genetically modified plants in their fields and on their tables.

Agriculture and rural development commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel is aware of this. She stated in a recent interview that she would never force farmers to grow GMOs.

The [European] commission and member states must indeed guarantee farmers and consumers the freedom of choice. Therefore, they need rules that guarantee GMO free agriculture and food in Europe.

However, the authorized use of GM technology in agriculture deliberately exposes farmers and processors to the risk of crop and food contamination via pollination, harvesting machinery, transport and processing.

To date, there is no legislation in place regulating precautionary measures or liability for this loss of choice. There is only EU law on labelling the presence of GMOs in food.

Coexistence rules have only been set up in four EU member states.

Commissioner Fischer Boel tells us that because of a lack of practical experience, we cannot yet assess the full effectiveness and economic impact of these rules. She is right.

But it is exactly this lack of experience that is the main reason why we have to be tough on coexistence rules.

We cannot measure the ecological, economic and even health consequences of the release of GMOs into the environment and we must therefore guarantee that contamination does not take place where people reject their use

In many countries like the US, Brazil and Argentina, where GMOs are fully authorised, coexistence has not worked.

Organic farmers have lost their certification, their markets and consumer trust. These farmers have strongly advised their European colleagues to insist on the precautionary principle. And on strict liability rules, which will force farmers to think twice before using GMOs.

There is no right to contaminate, but there is a right to stay GM free in conventional and organic farming.

It is not too late to prevent ecological and economic damage; it is now time for the commission to get its act together.

We need a European framework law on prevention of contamination and on strict liability rules.

Article 26a in the EU directive on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms allows member states to take appropriate measures to avoid the unintended presence of GM in food products.

Member states must use this right and the Commission must take its responsibilities seriously and allow member states to take measures that guarantee their freedom of choice.

Under certain conditions, this clearly includes the right to prohibit the release of GMOs into the environment within a region.

This article was originally published in the April 3 edition of the Parliament Magazine.

Copyright 2006 EUpolitix.com


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org


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