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Media Contact: Lea Brooks
August 12, 2009 (09-10)

DPR Awards $400,000 to Three Projects to Reduce Pesticide Use

SACRAMENTO – Three diverse projects will receive a total of $400,000 in grants to reduce pesticide use in public housing, decorative and bedding plants, and urban landscapes, Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam announced today.

"Many Californians are surprised to learn that more than half of all pesticide use in the state is for homes, schools, workplaces, parks and other non-agricultural uses," Warmerdam said. "We are especially pleased this year to support a project that will address the overuse and misuse of pesticides to control pest infestations in low-income housing where the potential for human exposure is high."

Pest Management Alliance Grants were awarded to the Los Angeles Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility for the Los Angeles-based Healthy Homes Campaign, $200,000; the Bedding and Color Plant Pest Management Alliance based at the University of California, Davis, $139,000; and the San Luis Obispo County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office for IPM Continuing Education for Maintenance Gardeners, $61,000. The grants are special funds comprised of fees on pesticide sales and registration.

Alliance grants emphasize collaborative efforts that can be widely implemented and integrated pest management (IPM), a combination of natural and preventive strategies that focus on long-term pest prevention and pose a low risk to people, pets and the environment. Pesticides are used as a last resort and selected to remove only the target pest.

DPR awarded Pest Management Alliance Grants annually from 1998 to 2002. The program was renewed in 2007. Since its inception, approximately $10 million has been awarded to more than 200 projects.

One of six departments and boards within the California Environmental Protection Agency, DPR regulates the registration, sale and use of pesticides to protect people and the environment. For more information about DPR see

Details about the winning projects and local media contacts follow:

  • Healthy Homes Campaign: Some studies have concluded that children are more at risk for developing cancer, asthma and other health problems associated with chemical exposure. The goal is to increase access to safe and effective pest management methods and promote IPM practices in substandard, primarily low-income housing by tenants, maintenance personnel and apartment managers/owners.

    The project will demonstrate the effectiveness of IPM in several privately owned, multi-unit housing complexes in Los Angeles and share the results with local public health and housing authorities and media to promote widespread adoption of IPM.

    The project’s focus is control of roaches, bed bugs and rodents based on reports from community clinics that doctors regularly remove roaches from children’s ears. Home assessments by the Health Home Collaborative - one of the project partners -- show a high failure rate from traditional pesticide applications. Many of the homes assessed had poor building maintenance and other ideal conditions for ongoing pest infestations.

    Apartment units and common living areas such as hallways and laundry rooms are being treated with pesticides every month or so at the request of landlords and management companies. In addition, tenants are using total release foggers, also known as "bug bombs." Also of concern is the possible misuse of illegal pesticides purchased from Mexico to treat bed bugs.

    IPM strategies in target buildings will include educating tenants about sanitation and clutter control; implementation of environmentally friendly cleaning practices in residential units; sealing holes and cracks to prevent pests; and use of pesticides that are less toxic than traditional treatments.

    Other partners are Colby Pest Control, Pestec IPM pest control of San Francisco, Green Shield Certified, Californians for Pesticide Reform and community groups Esperanza Community Housing Corp., Coalition for Economic Survival, People’s CORE, Los Angeles Community Legal Center and Inquilinos Unidos.

    For more details about the project, the local media contact is Martha Dina Arguello, Physicians for Social Responsibility executive director in Los Angeles, (213) 689-9170,
  • Demonstration and Implementation of Integrated Pest Management in the Production of Bedding and Container Color Plants: The goal of this three-year project is to reduce by 2012 overall pesticide use in the production of bedding and container color plants by 30 percent and organophosphate, carbamate and pyrethroid use to 15 percent of total insecticide applications. These older compounds are of high regulatory concern because of their toxicity and detection in surface water.

    Bedding and container color plants are part of the environmental horticulture industry that provides flowering plants for urban landscapes and for indoor and outdoor containers as decorations. These plants are produced and purchased year-round for their aesthetics.

    In California, production of these plants is rapid: an eight- to 10-week crop cycle is typical. Most growers make their profits from quick turnover of a large number of plants, which results in low tolerance for pest damage and a perception that generally slower biological control options are not appropriate. If not appropriately diagnosed and treated, many pests have the potential to remain with the plants when sold. One to three pesticide applications weekly during the entire crop cycle are not unusual.

    The project will form a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of experts to develop IPM strategies to manage pests with less-toxic pesticides and fewer applications. An IPM guide for bedding plants, a pocket guide for pest identification and a Web site will be developed to share the information.

    For more details about the project, the local media contact is Christine Casey, manager, IPM Bedding and Container Color Plant Program, University of California, Davis, (530) 752-0479,
  • IPM Continuing Education for Maintenance Gardeners: The goal is to reduce pesticide runoff into San Luis Obispo County’s urban creeks by educating local "maintenance" gardeners and retail outlets that sell pesticides about IPM practices. Many pesticides are toxic to aquatic life.

    Maintenance gardeners typically mow lawns, do general yard cleanup and occasionally apply pesticides on lawns and ornamental plants.

    A 2007 survey by the county Agricultural Commissioner’s Office found that 82 percent of these gardeners were in violation of state pesticide rules. In 2008, 45 percent of the county’s pesticide-related fines were issued to gardeners who fit this description.

    Most gardeners primarily speak Spanish and don’t know they need a license; have limited knowledge about IPM practices or alternatives to pesticides; and residents who hire them have little knowledge of pesticide safety laws or the potential environmental effects of improper pesticide use.

    The Agricultural Commissioner’s Office estimated there are hundreds of such gardeners working in the county, although only 35 are currently licensed. San Luis Obispo County reflects the situation statewide - DPR believes there are thousands of unlicensed gardeners using pesticides. They often rely on retail pesticide sales staff, previous experience or their clients for information.

    The county and its community partners will offer free, seasonal IPM workshops beginning this fall at participating retailers that will include training on proper pest identification methods and tools, alternatives to chemical pest controls and information about less-toxic pesticides.

    The workshops, in English and Spanish, will focus on IPM practices and meet DPR’s continuing education requirements for licensing maintenance gardeners. This IPM continuing education project will complement another San Luis Obispo County maintenance gardener project, which will offer workshops to prepare participants to take the state licensing exam. Those who pass the exam will be qualified to obtain the maintenance gardener pest control business license.

    San Luis Obispo County recently completed a related pilot project, also funded by DPR, that paid for television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) in English and Spanish to make residents aware they should hire licensed gardeners trained in pesticide safety. The PSAs have already been shared with county agricultural commissioners statewide.

    Other managing partners are the University of California Cooperative Extension, the Pesticide Applicators Professional Association and California Polytechnic State University Horticulture and Crops Science Department.

    For more details about this and related projects, the local media contact is Janice Campbell, San Luis Obispo deputy agricultural commissioner, (805) 781-5910,