Pests are everywhere, from Oak Brook golf courses to the Chicago Public Schools, a Peotone farmer’s field to your very own kitchen. What’s not so obvious are the serious health consequences of pesticides. The “solution” can be more dangerous than the problem, especially among children because they have higher metabolism rates and often play on the ground and put objects in their mouths. Pesticides are the second most common source of childhood poisonings. In addition, studies show:
Children have a 50% higher incidence of leukemia if their mothers are exposed to pesticides in the home up to three months before a pregnancy, during or after it.

Children under age two have 10 times the adult risk of developing cancer after pesticide and other chemical exposure; ages 3-15 have triple the risk.

Children have a greater risk of developing asthma by age five after pesticide exposure within the first year of life; Chicago has one of the highest national death rates from asthma.


Safer Pest Control Project aims to reduce the impact of pesticides on human health. While we provide information to all who request it, a number of our programs focus on children, families living in low-income housing, and others with disproportionate exposure to environmental toxins. Our particular expertise with indoor pest control makes us unique among the few groups nationwide that address pesticides. We also work with park districts, landscapers and farmers. Our priorities are to:
Minimize pesticide use in schools, day care centers, yards and parks.

Reduce pesticide exposure and pest problems in low-income housing.

Decrease groundwater contamination and exposure to lawn, garden and farm chemicals.

Inform the public about pesticide risks and the availability of safer alternatives.


Pests are an old problem that still grabs headlines because traditional pest control methods haven’t solved it and never will. Studies show that less than one percent of pesticides actually reach the intended target (the remainder has many unintended recipients including people and wildlife), and pests can develop a resistance to chemicals.

Conversely, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) depends on prevention and methods that cause the least harm to people and the environment. IPM focuses on eliminating the cause of pests by minimizing access to food, water, and hiding places. Common techniques include physical controls such as mousetraps, building repairs and improved sanitation; and biological controls such as fish that eat mosquito larvae.

Pesticides have been linked to cancer, birth defects and neurological, behavioral, reproductive, hormonal, and immune system disorders. This serious threat to our health will persist until we learn to safely deal with pests through IPM.


In 1994, a coalition of four environmental groups — the Sierra Club, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and Business and Professional People for the Public Interest – partnered to address widespread concern over pesticide use, and founded the Safer Pest Control Project. Over the next decade, SPCP has made remarkable strides toward its goals, including:

Highlights include:
SPCP helped write and lobby for the successful passage of an amendment (SB 1769) to current law that improves notification and enforcement provisions for Schools and Childcares for pesticides applications on their grounds.

SPCP won an EPA Environmental Justice Award for our work to protect children from pesticide exposure in Illinois childcares.
Offered Illinois’ first ever Natural Lawn Care Seminars for professional landscapers and school turf managers with national turf expert, Chip Osborne.

Trained 137 building engineers and 400 food service workers at Chicago Public Schools on safer methods of pest control through a comprehensive outreach and technical assistance program. We continue working in partnership with the district to implement these methods at all schools.

SPCP began a training program for residents, building owners and property managers to improve environmental health conditions in low-income housing by addressing pest management issues.

SPCP created and facilitated train-the-trainer programs for childcare trainers, early childhood education professors and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services licensing representatives. Collectively, we have trained more than 1,000 providers who serve more than 30,000 children. Materials developed by SPCP serve as a model for programs in several other states.

U.S. EPA Children’s Environmental Health Recognition Award.

SPCP received this award for training on and assistance to Illinois schools and childcare centers in the transition from conventional pest control to IPM.

Release and distribution of IPM manual for Park Districts.

Launched Statewide Partnership for IPM Implementation in Childcare Facilities, a coalition of more than 15 organizations working together to educate childcare providers about IPM and the new law requiring its use in childcare facilities, and to integrate IPM information into childcare training programs statewide.

Passage of legislation requiring the use of Integrated Pest Management in day care facilities and parental notification if pesticides are used.

Adoption of new contracting guidelines by Chicago Public Schools that require pest control operators to use only Integrated Pest Management in school buildings.

Conducted a public awareness campaign on alternatives to spraying for West Nile Virus that resulted in implementation of less toxic and more effective mosquito control methods in many Illinois communities. 2001
Adoption and implementation of Integrated Pest Management Policy at Chicago Public School. Although CPS requested and received an exemption from practicing IPM, the district adopted an IPM policy in 2001 after SPCP trained staff and helped deliver the policy.

SPCP hosted a one-day conference April 28, 2001 in Chicago to improve community awareness of pesticide misuse and safer pest control. The conference also set the stage for enhanced cooperation among community leaders, city and state agencies, community service providers, and private companies already working on the issues of pesticide misuse and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Chicago.

Chicago Housing Authority adopts a policy requiring IPM in all management contracts at CHA developments. The adoption of this policy was a result of the successful pilot IPM project established by SPCP at Henry Horner homes.

SPCP becomes an independent non profit with the granting of 501(c)(3) status.

Passage of two state laws in Illinois which require public schools to use IPM and notify parents and school staff prior to any broadcast pesticide applications in school buildings or on school grounds.

SPCP won a Governor’s Pollution Prevention Award for its work with the residents of Henry Horner Homes public housing development on Chicago’s west side to design and implement an IPM pilot project.

Release and distribution of “Toward a Safer Pest Control Policy in Illinois: Integrated Pest Management in Public Spaces.”

SPCP publishes an educational comic book, Pest Invasion I, on IPM for public housing residents. The comic book design team consisted of Don McQuay, an established comic book artist, paired with Delano Brown, a young resident of Henry Horner Homes public housing development. The Team’s initial effort was so successful that SPCP published a second comic, Pest Invasion II, for public housing residents moving to Section 8 housing.

SPCP’s innovative work with residents of Henry Horner Homes in Chicago led to design and implementation of the first ever IPM pilot project in public housing.

SPCP launches its annual Yards for Nature Campaign whose goal was to counter the massive springtime media blitz by chemical lawn care companies who fail to notify the public of the health and environmental risks of chemical lawn treatments.

First SPCP Farm Tour to bring non-Farmers to the sustainable farms.

Worked on the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture – a national campaign to impact the 1995 Farm Bill.

SPCP was established.