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EPA Funds Project to Tackle Household Pests in Safer Ways

Release Date: 01/10/2007
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith (215) 814-5543

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding the start-up of a project that will teach Philadelphia households how to fend off cockroaches and other little pesky critters in more safe and healthier ways.
EPA’s Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh awarded $187,000 today to the Philadelphia School and Community Integrated Pest Management Partnership, as part of EPA’s Community Action for a Renewed Environment grant program. This grant program supports communities in creating and using collaborative partnerships to reduce exposure to pollutants. The grant will be administered through the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office.

“Assisting communities in improving their local environment and the health of their citizens is important to EPA,” said Welsh. “This is best accomplished when grant recipients work with local organizations to identify areas of focus and create an agenda for action.”

The Philadelphia School and Community Integrated Pest Management Partnership (PSCIP) will use the EPA grant for outreach and education efforts to low-income areas where exposure to pests and pesticides can threaten people’s health, especially children, pregnant women and the elderly. While pests can spread disease and trigger asthma, indoor use of pesticides can also be harmful.

“There is a great unmet need for community education on least-toxic integrated pest management (IPM) approaches. In childcare settings especially, aspects of healthy environments are a concern. Pests are one of those concerns. But another major concern is the use of the wrong chemicals or the misuse of a pesticide which can be more of an issue affecting children’s and parent’s health,” said Welsh.

“Empowering local residents to reduce the risks of pests and pesticide exposure in urban communities is the goal of our project,” said Michelle Niedermeier, coordinator of the Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program. “Because pests move around a lot by nature, the task of fighting pests in urban environments requires collaborative community action and our goal is to raise awareness and understanding of local residents, businesses and service providers about pest infestations, pesticide risks, and common-sense IPM solutions.”

IPM is a safe, effective, and scientific approach to managing pests. IPM uses knowledge of pests’ habits and needs to help residents implement pest prevention tactics as a first line of defense. Because pesticides are poisonous, they are chosen only as a temporary tool. Only pesticide products that pose the least-toxic, least risk of exposure to residents should be chosen. Information about proper use, storage and disposal of pesticide products is also critical to avoid personal and environmental contamination.

Beginning in West Philadelphia, the PSCIP partners will work with community leaders to determine residents’ needs and tailor training programs and materials to fit that need.

New educational materials and community interactions will empower residents to take control of their pest problems and make positive changes in the home, thus reducing the health risks associated with both pests and pesticides. By taking advantage of the many social service agencies in the City, the group will also develop multi-lingual publications, starting with Spanish.

Niedermeier estimates that at least 500 residents and six health care organizations and their staff will be educated on pests, pesticide use and IPM. “We’ll be ‘training the trainer’ with various organizations so that potentially a much larger population can be reached through their own clientele,” she says.

Another goal of the project is to explore the connection between IPM implementation and the creation of local small-business enterprises and job skills training. Pest management professionals and other small businesses are key to continuing IPM implementation in low-income neighborhoods. Reward systems for pest management professionals using IPM practices can be implemented to encourage them to fine-tune their skills and receive additional training.

Today’s ceremony, at which EPA presented the $187,000 check, was held at The Preschool Project, a PSCIP partner, located on Columbia Avenue.

“The Preschool Project is happy to be able to partner with PSCIP to educate families and professionals,” explained Anne Rahn, executive director of The Preschool Project. “Our first major program together will be The Preschool Project’s 7th annual Latino Child Care conference scheduled in April, the only bilingual child care conference in Pennsylvania.”

For more information on PSCIP and community IPM, visit http://www.pscip.org. For more information about Integrated Pest Management, visit www.epa.gov/reg3esd1/garden/ipm.htm