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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
- What insects are being controlled? How extensive is the pest problem? What is the
physical make-up of the pests (their resistance and susceptibility to pesticides)?
- What are the chemical compounds being sprayed? In what quantities? How often?
How effective are they in controlling the pests?
- How effective is the air ventilation system? Where does the air flow? What
compounds are there in the air?
- What are the circumference effects outside the buildings? Do the pesticides travel
outside the buildings?
- What people are frequenting the buildings (how many)? Are rooms ever completely
evacuated for set times? Who is exposed to the chemicals and what are the health impacts?
- Are the people informed of the spraying? Do they have the opportunity to leave the
buildings and avoid exposure?
- Do the chemicals penetrate the food supply? What are the consequent effects on
consumers after ingestion?
Our key contacts for our investigation are as follows:
- University Administration--Purchasing Department: Steve Cook ext. 2027
- Married Students Apartments: Safeway Harry Haught 576-6592
- University libraries: Eric Boyd ext. 2163
- Conrad Grebel College: Paul Penner 885-0220 and Abel Waco Ltd. 743-8551
- St. Jerome's College: Darren Block 884-8110
- Notre Dame College: Sister Celeste 884-2460
- Renison College: Barbara Checketts 884-4400
- St. Paul's College: Gail Cambell 885-1460
- all other on-campus spraying: PCO Pest Control, Mark Newman 749-7041
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.