Indoor Pest Management at the University of Waterloo

Table of Contents

*** Click on a table item to go to that section ***

*** Click on an arrow like this to come back here ***

Chapter 1


At the University of Waterloo, Watgreen is an organization whose aim is to create a sustainable campus. Students, staff and faculty are all welcome to contribute their efforts to work on various environmental projects. Watgreen focuses on three main areas on campus: energy conservation, waste reduction, and student involvement. Involvement in any area of interest or concern is encouraged with information and expertise being readily accessable for any volunteers (Watgreen Pamphlet).

Sustainability on Campus

This section is under construction!

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the methods of pest control at the University of Waterloo. This investigation includes: the types of controls and their percentage of use; locations of pest control; the frequency of control action; the environmental impacts; the human health implications. As well, investigation to determine if alternatives are presently considered has occured. In order to "green" the campus, it was our plan to compile this information in order to evaluate the pest control program in terms of sustainability and determine whether alternative methods of pest control should be implemented.

Rationale for this Project

As the people of this university go from class to class, from day to day, many of them are likely unaware of the fact that they are continually coming into contact with various chemicals used to control indoor pests on campus. These foreign chemicals cause harmful effects on humans, and ample evidence in history provides us with this fact. Our experiences with DDT alone should have taught us to be more careful with our chemical use. Apparently, they have not done so. New discoveries of the harmful effects of many commonly used chemicals occur regularly. These discoveries prove the need for an in-depth study of the applications of chemicals on our university campus. Proper use of chemicals on campus must occur to ensure the optimum health of students, staff and faculty. The maintenance of the cleanest environment possible--indoors and out--is our primary concern.

The Key Actors

The key players in the system are the students, staff and faculty; two pest control companies; the UW department of plant operations; the Health and Safety department; and the UW purchasing department. All actors wish to have an effective pest control program at the University, but may have varying degrees of involvement and investment concerning pest management. 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 draw conclusions and make any recommendations we may deem relevant.

Focus of Our Study

The large system with which we are concerned is the University of Waterloo's pest management program. This program is divided into two major systems: the biophysical flow of chemical pesticides within the university campus, and the communication network that deals with accessible information regarding chemicals and their health effects. There are two sub-systems under the larger system of biophysical flow of chemical pesticides: a pro-active system and a re-active system. The boundaries set for our investigation are those of the University campus within Ring Road. Although environmental implications do not end at arbitrarily defined geographical boundaries, for our purposes, a boundary must be set in order to narrow our focus to manageable levels.

Chemical Pesticide Flows On Campus

Figure 1 and 2 are diagrams of the pro-active and re-active systems respectively of pest control on the UW campus. The components which make up these systems include: the pests; the university's purchasing department; the pest control companies (PCO and Safeway) which manage the pest problems; the pest control measures which may include the application of chemicals; the university's plant operations department; and the nature of the chemicals and the impact of these chemicals on human health and the environment.

Pests initiate the problem on which our study focuses. The pests enter the campus and inhabit various areas. When the pests enter the campus buildings, they enter the biophysical system relevant to our study. Another outside input that causes concern are the chemicals used to control the pest problem. Chemical agents are brought onto the campus as part of a response to a demand from the university's purchasing department. The purchasing department hires pest control companies for preventative and reactive measures in response to a perceived pest problem. The chemicals enter the university campus via the pest control companies by being applied in the buildings as pest control measures. Once they are applied, the chemicals become categorized as outputs, and affect many aspects of the campus environment.

The purchasing department has tenured PCO on contract for the university. PCO is hired to monitor pest activity on a monthly basis. In this light, PCO is pro-active. Every month, PCO visits the campus and looks for pest problems. Monitors are set in place and PCO applies chemicals if there is a problem. If no problem is apparent, then PCO only makes written and verbal recommendations to food services. Recommendations usually include suggestions for better sanitation and cleanliness.

Perceived problems are noted by faculty, staff and students. If insects or rodents are spotted indoors, the department of plant operations is called. If the problem is an outdoor problem, such as skunks or bees, the grounds department is contacted. For indoor problems, custodial services are contacted. The department of plant operations attempts to deal with the problem by thorough cleaning which is usually a very effective way of eliminating unwanted pests. If cleaning is insufficient, then "over-the-counter" chemicals, such as Raid, Green Cross, mouse bait or live traps. If the problem persists, the purchasing department is then notified. In turn, the purchasing department then calls Safeway Pest Control. This company then uses chemicals to eliminate the pest problem.

The Communication System Involved with Pest Management

The second larger system involved in the pest management program at the University of Waterloo is the communication network established between all the actors involved. This system is of primary importance to our study because good communication between all actors involved is necessary for sustainability on campus. It is vital that all the pertinant safety information is readily accessible for all staff, student and faculty. Figure 3 represents the links of communication at UW that are involved in indoor pest control.

Regional policies and regulations set by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ontario Pesticide Act and by Occupational Health and Safety, are the highest in the hierarchy since they form the rules that the purchasing department must adhere to in managing pests on campus. Regional polices also place restrictions on the pest control companies as to the types of chemicals they may use, how often they are applied, and what precautions must be abided by in application procedures.

Pest control companies are required by law to provide material safety data sheets (MSDS) to the university. MSDS's contain the name of the chemicals used, toxic effects, precautions that must be taken before application, and disposal methods. These sheets are required so that the university is aware of the type and effects of chemicals used on campus. Furthermore, a service confirmation sheet is required by the pest control companies every time chemicals are applied. For PCO, these sheets are completed monthly, while Safeway completes these sheets when problems arise. A service confirmation sheet gives a description and concentration of chemicals used, the area of application, the identification of pests that needed to be controlled, and future recommendations from the pest control companies. The cost, signature of application and date are found in the bottom of these sheets.

The MSDS are given to the university health and safety department upon hiring of the pest control company and are updated regularly. The service confirmation sheets are delivered to the purchasing department mainly for billing costs. The Health and Safety department keeps these documents on file.

The problems with this system lie in the fact that the communication stops when it reaches the department of Health and Safety. Pest control companies are not required by law to post warnings or explanations before or after applying chemicals. Students, faculty and staff are not automatically given this information when the pest control measures are being carried out. The people are not aware of the chemicals they are exposed to and are not given the opportunity to leave the buildings.

Data Collection Process

The overall purpose of the systems we have investigated is to control the pest problems present in our University buildings in a safe and effective manner. In our evaluation, therefore, we have evaluated the biophysical system as to its effectiveness in controlling pests. We have also, however, evaluated it on the basis of its possible negative impacts on the students, staff and faculty and the outside environment. The communication system on campus was critiqued on the basis of whether the appropriate saftey information was being effectively communicated to all people exposed to any potential harm from the pest control measures.

The investigation which we undertook in order to evaluate the above systems can be summed up in three main questions:

From these three main questions, we developed an investigation plan including a complete list of questions that helped us to analyze the pest management program on campus. Figure 4 illustrates our investigation plan.

What is being done on campus to control indoor pests?

What is the pest situation on campus?

What are the impacts of our pest control program?

As we pieced together the answers to these questions, we have to obtained a better understanding of the pest problem on campus and the methods used to control it. We have to determined whether the most appropriate measures are being taken or if there are any problems with the program.

Chapter 2

Common Problems on Campus

There are many problems on campus regarding pests. One main problem is cockroaches in food services. Cockroaches are unsanitary, transporting Salmonella bacteria through food sources. Fly larva (maggots) are also found on campus. These are unavoidable and create an unhealthy environment for students, faculty and staff. Squirrels and skunks are known to be found inside buildings. They can destroy cable wirings of telephone and computer systems. Damage to building structure and penetration of composting systems can also occur. All bees must be eliminated on campus indoors due to the high sensitivity of people with allergic reactions. Sever cases could result in serious injury and lawsuits against the University.

Description of Pests Typical for our Areas of Study

The areas which tend have the greatest problem with pests include the libraries and the food services areas. Following, we describe briefly the common pests of these areas.

German Cockroach

The most popular pest that frequents the libraries is the german cockroach. This pest is a small insect of 10 to 15 mm in length and is yellowish-brown in colour. The life span of an adult is 125 to 150 days and there can be two or three generations of these insects per year.

The german cockroach tends to breed in moist and warm environments, and can be found in glue for binding books, human food stores, briefcases and stores of paper. They prefer damp environments and they normally lurk around in the dark.

The german cockroach is a concern for humans because it is a carrier of the bacteria Salmonella which is responsible for some types of food poisoning.


The next most popular pest found in libraries are booklice or psocids. They are small, pale yellow insects of less than 2mm in length. They tend to breed in damp, moist areas, feeding on the molds and fungi which may grow there. Old books are often infested with these types of pests if they have been allowed to become damp and have a distinctive musty odour.

Booklice do not bite nor are their known carriers of human infections, but they are a nuisance and should be controlled.


Silverfish are another pest problem typically found in libraries. They are slender, wingless, scale-covered insects of approximately 13mm in length. A silverfish can survive for more than 300 days without food.

Silverfish breed in warm, secluded places, often near radiators and heat pipes. They damage glazed paper and glues or pasted materials such as bookbindings and wallpaper. They eat bonding glue in wood-processing plants and damage many types of fibres.


Finally, springtails are a group of very small wingless insects ranging from 1 to 2 mm in length. They also tend to breed in damp environments, where algae, fungi and decaying organic matter is available (i.e. old food left behind). Their damage is minimal, but they are unhealthy and unsanitary.

Food Services
American Cockroach

The american cockroach is found very often in food areas. It is the largest of the common cockroaches, being 30 to 40 mm in length. It can fly but flight is rare and sluggish. Their lifespan can be up to two years.

The american cockroach prefers to breed in warm, moist areas, and is often found on surfaces where food is stored or prepared, in areas where water is abundant and near hot water pipes.

The american cockroach, like its german counterpart, is a carrier of Salmonella, and is thereby a major health hazard.

Fruit/Drain Flies

These pests are fairly common around restaurants, kitchens and grocery stores. They are typically 1 to 2 mm long and have wings. Their lifespan is normally up to three months.

They breed in warm, moist environments where there is a supply of decaying fruit or vegetable matter, or in areas that contain large amounts of sugar or starch.

The fruit and drain fly is harmless but is very unsanitary according to health laws and regulations.

Pest Management System at the University of Waterloo

PCO and Safeway pest control companies are the key players involved in the pest management system at UW. PCO is pro-active and visits the campus on tha monthly basis. Safeway responds re-actively to pest problems which arise spontaneously on campus. The total budget for pest control on campus is 10,000 dollars, three to four thousand of which is given to PCO and the remaining amount is given to Safeway.

Pest Control Regulations

The university purchasing department has a list of guidelines set by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment. These guidelines are given to the pest control companies when they are contracted. These regulation include:

  1. Licensing and Regulations:
  2. Materials:
  3. Description of Work:

    Regardless of pest type or cockroaches the following areas shall be treated on any call our for pest control:

Pest control "program" refers to application of these areas on a monthly basis. A signature must be obtained from each individual area treated. A monthly report must be submitted to both the user department representative and the purchasing department.

The Pro-active Pest Control System on Campus

PCO Pest Control Company

PCO is the pest control company which tenders the contract at the University of Waterloo. They are a subsidiary of the larger corporation, S.C. Johnson Wax. S.C. Johnson's goal regarding pest control is "elimination--not control". They stand behind their products; PCO offers a complete guarantee that if the pests come back, then so do they. S.C. Johnson Wax has also recently won a corporate environmental award for their regard for environmental causes.

PCO has been employed by the University of Waterloo since 1990. The tactic this company takes is called Integrated Pest Management. Simply put, it means that PCO works not just for the university, but with them in order to achieve a pest-free campus. PCO educates the University about preventative measures such as good sanitation, and the University thereby participates in the task of pest control.

Key words that the PCO representative, Mark Newman, used were "controls" and "monitors". Controls are what they use to eliminate the pests. These come in forms of powders and pastes, and not as commonly assumed, in sprays. Monitors are set out by PCO in order to accurately address the pest problem. These include such devices as pieces of paper with glue and scented baits used to discover what insects are causing a problem, and the frequency of their occurrence. These monitors are placed in perimeter areas where the common passerby would not notice them. Where the most human traffic exists, the fewest pests exist, and these monitors are placed accordingly. They are put in cafeterias, near sinks or other moisture areas, and where any food spillage may occur.

The areas posing the most problems are the food services locations. Central storage and central preparation areas usually distribute the food throughout the campus. Cockroaches travel easily with this distribution and can pose great sanitation risks. As well, in the fall, mice enter the buildings seeking warmth and generally attracted to areas with a constant food supply.

PCO monitors the following areas on campus: the bookstore, all food service areas including the Villages, the Davis Center, South Campus Hall, Campus Center, Fed Hall, the Grad House, and the residences of Minota Hagey. Food Services on campus are strictly under the control of PCO and all problems in these areas are reported to them.

PCO is regulated by the Ministry of the Environment in all areas of their functioning. Although PCO may apply "controls" to all these indoor areas as well as minor amounts of outdoor areas, it is not their obligation to inform students or faculty of their procedures or applications. PCO is not required to post warnings of any health threats posed by the use of their chemicals. We are unsure at this point of who exactly does have this crucial obligation of education.

PCO commonly uses the following chemicals:

Health and environmental effects for these chemicals are included in Chapter 4.

PCO claims that it is currently investigating alternative compounds which leave little environmental effects. Boric Acid is a natural compound which enters an insect's system and shuts it down. Diatomecious Earth is a natural compound which lasts forever. It works by slitting the bellies of insects, causing them to dry out and die. This is recently being used more in the actual construction of buildings to prevent pest problems from starting.

Utilizing the "Integrational" approach, PCO offers advice to the campus to help prevent further pest problems. In food preparation areas, stainless steel surfaces are encouraged versus wood which is porous and can crack, thereby potentially harbouring food particles. Food preparation area are also encouraged to eliminate excess moisture and clean up all drain problems. Clean-up protocols have also been uniformly created to ensure standardized procedures.

In garbage areas, standardized clean-up procedures (i.e. hosing down) have been put in place to prevent rodent appearances. Composts have also been addressed to help avoid unwanted squirrel, skunk and rodent penetration. Wood and plastic composts are discouraged but instead wire mesh is promoted due to its impenetrable nature. Composts have also been removed from immediate placement near buildings.

The Re-active Pest Control System on Campus

When pest problem spontaneously arise on campus, the plant operations department is first contacted. If this department can not deal with the problem, then Safeway Pest Control Company is called. In this context, both the plant operations department and Safeway are reactive as they deal with pest problems when they are presented.

The Department of Plant Operations

This section is under construction!

Safeway Pest Control Company

The chemicals which Safeway uses to control pest on campus include: Health and environmental effects of these chemicals are included in Chapter 4.

Chapter 3

Information Accessibility--Current Legislation

On March 14, 1995, Joanna Curtis from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety spoke to us regarding information accessibility regulations. It was found that pest control is not governed by the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). WHMIS guarantees the right for all staff in institutions to have accessibility to all information at all times.

The Pesticide Products Control Act governs all pest control substances. This act can ensure or exempt products from registration depending on specifications. Certain products can not be exempt from registration; namely, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, or any live organisms.

In this act, there are many regulations regarding the proper labelling, use, and make-up of various chemicals. All of these must be adhered to and Ministry-appointed inspectors have ultimate rights to investigate and ensure these processes are meeting requirements. Labels designating differences between "restricted" and "domestic", directions, dosage rates, timing of application and use limitations, hazards (to plants, animals, and the environment, first aid, and toxicological information, all must be clearly shown. All of the above must be communicated by the manufacturer to the distributer and user (Pest Control Products Act, 1988). Public accessibility and rights are not provided for in this act.

Indoor pesticide use does not require that the public be informed of use indoors, no where indoor chemicals are being used outside. There is no allottment in their agenda to ensure public awareness, but the guidelines imposed on the user must be adhered to under the act.

Availability of Information at UW

This section is under construction!

Chapter 4

Health and Environmental Effects of Chemicals

  1. Diazinon
  2. Ficam (spray)
  3. Bromadiolone
  4. Boric Acid
  5. Boradust Insecticide
  6. Diphacinone 0.005%

Chapter 5

Conclusions and Recommendations

This section is under construction!


Key Contact People

Our key contacts for our investigation are as follows: