Our Project Definition


The purpose of this project is to evaluate the use of chemical spraying for pest control at the University of Waterloo. This investigation includes: the types and quantities of chemicals being sprayed; where the spraying is done; the frequency of spraying; the environmental impacts; the human health implications and possible alternative methods for pest control. This collection of information is not readily available as of yet; in order to "green" the campus, we plan to compile this information and determine whether alternative methods of pest control should be implemented.

Project Rationale

Minimizing indoor sprays and chemicals all over campus would improve the physical health of students, staff and faculty and help maintain a cleaner environment indoors and out. Finding alternative methods for the extinction of pests on campus may provide a more stable sustainable future for the University of Waterloo. It is important to take action against the use of indoor chemicals because it will promote a healthier atmosphere throughout campus.

Systems Identification and Study

The large system with which we are concerned is the University of Waterloo's pest management program. This system is divided into two major systems: the biophysical flow of chemical pesticides in the university campus, and the communication network that deals with pest control on campus. The boundaries set for our investigation are those of the University campus including the Villages, the Church Colleges and the Married Students' Apartments. Environmental implications do not end with geographical territory, but for our purposes, the campus will serve as our boundary.

Chemical Pesticide Flow System

Figure 1 is a diagram of the system of chemical flow through the university. The components which make up this system include: the pests; the university administration and pest control companies which manage the pest problem; the application of the chemicals; the ventilation systems of the buildings; the nature of the chemicals and their impacts on human health and the environment.

Our study cannot be completely contained within the boundaries of the campus because of outside factors involved. For our biophysical system, there are two such outside factors: the pests and the chemicals.

Pests initiate the problem on which our study focuses. Their biological makeup, area of origin, migration patterns, resistance and susceptibility to foreign pesticides, and their breeding and seasonal habits need to be examined to determine the causes of their existence on campus, their effects, and effective measures to eliminate them. The pests enter the campus and inhabit various areas. When the insects enter the campus buildings, they enter the biophysical system relevant to our study.

Another outside input which causes concern are the chemicals used to control the pest population. Their origin, composition and chemical reaction once sprayed all need to be examined in order to better understand their implications on the environment.

The pests enter the campus devoid of human influence, whereas the chemical agents are brought into this system through a demand from the university's administration. The perceived problem of pests on campus provides the motive for the chemical flow system.

Once administration is informed of the pest problem, action is taken. Namely, administration hires the pest control companies to enter the university and spray the areas of concern. The chemicals enter the university campus via the pest control companies and are sprayed in the buildings to help control pests. Once they are applied, the chemicals are categorized as outputs, and have great potential to affect many aspects of the campus environment. The chemicals are added to the air system and transmitted throughout the buildings via the ventilation system. The ventilation system allows for mixing of all air through the buildings and exposes all people in the buildings to the chemicals, which end up in our lungs and may have possible negative health impacts.

As the air leaves the buildings through the ventilation systems, the chemicals are carried to the outside environment. These chemicals then have the potential to enter the food chains or affect animals through respiration. In determining what methods should be considered for pest management, we must examine the flow of chemicals as it enters this outside environment and their impacts on it.

Communication System

The second system involved in the pest management program at the University of Waterloo is the communication network established between all the actors involved. Figure 2 represents the links of communication at UW that are involved in indoor pest control.

Regional policies and regulations are the highest in the hierarchy since they form the rules that the administration must adhere to in managing pests on campus. Regional polices also place restrictions on the pest control companies on such matters as types of chemicals to be used, how often spraying can be done, and what precautions must be abided by in spraying conditions. This connection between policies and pest control is marked as a dotted line in Figure 2 because the regional policies are an input from outside of our campus system.

From the administration, the flow of information progresses to the purchasing department. The administration, in theory, notifies the purchasing department of requests for pest management. The purchasing department then hires the chemical spray companies. It is important to consider that since the administration is not in direct contact with the pests themselves, that they may be responding to a perceived problem and not an actual pest problem.

The pest control companies are hired to spray infested or potentially pest-infested areas. The spray may contain harmful chemicals which could affect the health of the staff, faculty or students if the appropriate precautions are not taken. The people may or may not be aware of the chemicals they are exposed to, depending on the education or warnings posted to make people aware and give them the opportunity to leave the buildings. It is unclear who has the responsibility to educate the people who are exposed to the chemicals as to their hazards. This information may not be passed on and thereby represent another possible problem in this system.

Key Actors

The key players in the systems are the students, staff and faculty; the chemical sprayers; and the UW purchasing department and administration. All actors wish to have an effective pest control program at the University, but may disagree on which method would be the most appropriate. As students, we wish to investigate the methods being used on campus, researching their possible health or environmental impacts. Employing the results of this investigation, we hope to be able to suggest safer alternatives to the methods being used.

Criteria for Evaluation

The overall purpose of the systems we are investigating is to control the pest problems present in our University buildings in a safe and effective manner. In our evaluation, therefore, we will be evaluating the biophysical system by its effectiveness in controlling pests. We are also, however, evaluating it on the basis of its negative impacts on the students, staff and faculty and the outside environment. Appropriate pest management should control pests in an effective but safe manner, and we intend to evaluate the system on these criteria and offer possible alternatives to the present methods if they do not meet this criteria.

We will be evaluating the system of communication on campus by its ability to handle the pest problem in the most effective and safe manner. We must determine whether the communication links are intact and that all parties are interacting effectively. The administration and the purchasing department should be completely informed of the actually problem and respond appropriately. Accordingly, the pest control companies should be passing on all necessary safety information to the administration who should then warn all people exposed to the harmful chemicals.

Key Investigative Questions

We have identified a list of key questions we are investigating:

These questions are important for our investigation. It is vital to know the nature of the chemicals we are dealing with, how they travel through the buildings and outside, and their effects on people and the environment. Information on the pests themselves would help us in determining appropriate alternatives to harmful chemicals.

Key Contacts

Our key contacts for our investigation are as follows:

Data Collection

We will collect our data from the above contacts through personal interviews. Through these interviews we intend to obtain information on what chemicals are being sprayed, how much, where, when, and what safety information is passed on to the university concerning these chemicals. We will conduct library research and contact chemical producers in order to determine the nature of the chemicals and their toxicity information. University blueprints will enable us to better understand the ventilation systems of the university buildings and help us to determine the flow of chemicals in the air.