The Wisconsin Asthma Coalition (WAC) recently partnered with the IPM Institute of North America to train Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) staff on integrated pest management systems (IPM) to reduce health and environmental risks throughout their facilities.

The new partnership, made possible by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Justice Small Grants Program, will better protect the health of all MPS students.

“We are excited to collaborate with the IPM Institute on this initiative,” said Brittany Farrell, WAC program manager. “Their staff gave an engaging webinar earlier this year on the link between asthma and integrated pest management. Since both organizations have worked within MPS on environmental health, it only made sense to partner again. The IPM Institute has a proven track record of helping schools achieve green and healthy standards, and MPS students and staff will benefit by learning best practices to maintain healthy learning environments in their buildings long after the grant’s conclusion.”

The EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant will allow the IPM Institute to hold five in-person Pest Defense workshops and training webinars for staff on integrated pest management in schools. The WAC will aid in these trainings by providing information and education on how IPM can positively impact asthma management for both students and staff. The grant will also cover an IPM STAR evaluation for MPS to recognize and award its high IPM standards. IPM STAR is a certification program that offers a way for schools to implement advanced IPM and includes a 37-point on-site evaluation of pest management practices.

Implementing ways to better control asthma in schools is crucial in Wisconsin. Over 500,000 Wisconsin children and adults have asthma and each year, 1 in 3 students will miss school because of their symptoms. IPM is crucial to controlling asthma because critters such as mice and cockroaches and certain pesticides can worsen asthma symptoms or trigger an asthma attack.

“Pest exposure is an important contributor to asthma disparities,” said Leah McSherry, Community IPM Coordinator. “Mice, cockroaches and pesticides can trigger asthma and other health risks in children. Approximately 45% of children with asthma are allergic to cockroaches and another 22% are allergic to mice. Pesticides act as an irritant which can further inflame the lungs. Through this project with WAC, the IPM Institute aims to decrease pest and pesticide exposure of MPS students and staff.”

Affordable and feasible interventions such as IPM are urgently needed in the school setting. The Wisconsin Asthma Coalition and IPM Institute will work together to decrease the prevalence of pests and making the MPS asthma-friendly for all students and staff.

“This work will serve as a model to other districts in Wisconsin on how to build and sustain healthy learning environments,” Farrell said. “This project will also open the door to environmental walkthroughs in MPS facilities, where the WAC provides recommendations for how to reduce or remove asthma triggers in the building. The WAC Walkthrough Program is statewide, and partnering with the IPM Institute to replicate the MPS efforts in districts across Wisconsin ensures kids and staff are in a healthy environment, regardless of their location.”

With plans for future collaboration between the WAC and IPM Institute in mind, Wisconsin students and school staff will have a healthy learning environment both now and in the future.

This project has been funded wholly by the EPA under assistance agreement EQ00E02845-0 to the IPM Institute of North America. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the EPA, nor does the EPA endorse trade names or recommend the use of commercial products mentioned in this document.