CORVALLIS - The nation's information bank on pesticides and pesticide safety, which for the past two years has been headquartered at Oregon State University, is getting bigger and better.

The National Pesticide Telecommunications Network (NPTN) has expanded its hours of operation, hired more staffers and added a World Wide Web site to improve its service to the public.

The additions are in response to increasing consumer demand for information and education about pesticides used in and around the home, according to Terry Miller, OSU Extension Service pesticide coordinator and project director for the network.

The telephone number for NPTN, which operates out of OSU's Department of Agricultural Chemistry, is 1-800-858-7378.

"In 1995 we started with three staffers answering phone calls 10 hours a day, from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., five days a week," said Miller. "Now we've expanded the phone hours to seven days a week and increased our staff to 11 pesticide specialists."

The purpose of NPTN is to provide U.S. citizens with a variety of pesticide-related information on pesticide products, label instructions, potential toxic effects, impacts on the environment, alternatives, and storage and disposal requirements.

Network services are supported by funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The project is co-managed by Miller, Jeffrey Jenkins, OSU Extension Service agricultural chemist, and Sheldon Wagner, M.D., clinical toxicologist and professor in the OSU Department of Agricultural Chemistry.

Miller said the NPTN World Wide Web site, which has been under development for several months, will significantly broaden the reach of the network.

"We've had the web site up only a few months and haven't marketed it much yet, but I've already seen up to 8,500 hits per month on the site," Miller said. "Comparing that to the monthly average of 1,600 calls we receive in the telecommunications center makes it clear that the web site has potential to be a valuable addition to our service."

The NPTN web site is designed to give browsers quick access to readily understandable pesticide information about products consumers are most likely to use in and around their homes.

"We've tried to make the NPTN contact information easy to understand for the non-expert," Miller said. "Also, the NPTN site includes links to other pesticide information sites such as some of the Environmental Protection Agency web pages, state pesticide regulatory agencies, poison control centers, and pesticide companies."

In addition to NPTN's online resources, Miller noted that several pesticide fact sheets are being developed so that NPTN staff will be able to offer to callers information in hard copy form.

"A lot of the available published information about pesticides that has been produced by the Extension Service or the EPA is geared more toward agricultural chemicals rather than chemicals used around the household," said Miller. "We want to develop some pesticide publications for the general consumer that will be used to support NPTN's telephone and online information functions."

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Terry Miller, 541-737-1811