Want to get rid of pesky bugs and rodents in and around your home and garden—without using dangerous chemical pesticides? Bug Busters provides dozens of environmentally safe, easy methods for keeping your home free of pests. Written in easy-to-understand language, this book combines traditional time-proven pest controls with the latest research. Also included are new and innovative techniques for eradicating vermin. And for those times when a chemical pesticide or exterminator may be your only recourse, as with termite infestation, Bug Busters tells you how to find a competent professional and how to properly handle and dispose of chemical pesticides.
At a time when literally thousands of adults and children are treated yearly for pesticide mishaps, Bug Busters provides important information for anyone who is concerned with safe and intelligent pest control.
Bernice Lifton, a graduate of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, is a professional writer-editor-researcher. For nearly twenty years, she has studied and researched environmentally safe and effective pest-control methods. As a journalist, Ms. Lifton has written articles for numerous national magazines, including Parents and This Week.
How to Use This Book
No Pests No Poisons
1. Controls Not Chemicals
2. Is Your Problem Really Insect Pests?
Pests of Food
3. Outsmarting the Cagey Cockroach
4. Critters in the Crackers Pests in the Pantry
5. Rats and Mice—There’s No Pied Piper
6. The Fearsome Fly
Pests of the Body
7. The Mosquito—A Deadly Nuisance
8. The Mighty Flea the Insidious Tick
9. Lice and Bedbugs—The Unmentionables
Pests of Property
10. Clothes Moths Carpet Beetles Silverfish Firebrats and Crickets
11. Termites and Carpenter Ants—The Hidden Vandals
12. Plant Pests—Part of the Landscape
Controlling the Controllers
13. Ants Spiders Wasps and Scorpions—Useful but Unwelcome
14. Pesticides—Only as a Last Resort
In the twenty years since Bug Busters was first published, there have been some causes for hope that we are getting our pesticide problems under control. That hope is tarnished, however, by stubborn accident statistics that have changed little or worsened since 1985. In 1981, more than 21,000 people, over half of them children, were treated in hospital emergency rooms for pesticide poisoning. In 2000, that number was 23,000—hardly cause for celebration.
Aggravating the problem are ominous episodes in which our passion for trying to wipe out insect nuisances has led us into potentially deadly waters. Here are just two:
1. In April 2001, residues of lindane—a powerful nerve poison for which there is no safe exposure limit—were found in chocolate Easter eggs distributed by major supermarkets in the United Kingdom. The use of this dangerous pesticide is strictly limited in all countries of the European Union. So how did it get into the beautiful Easter candy the kids love? The cocoa came from farms in Ghana, where there is little if any control over pesticide use.
2. In the 1980s and 1990s, methyl parathion, which is legal for use only on certain specific crops and is so powerful that farmworkers are not permitted to go back into treated fields for two days after the pesticide has been applied, was widely used by rogue exterminators in the Midwest and South to control insects in homes. Said one satisfied customer, “I can smell it, so I know it’s working.” It certainly was. Complicating the danger were mistaken diagnoses by primary care physicians unfamiliar with poisoning symptoms. The doctor for one family with seven sick children thought he was dealing with viral gastroenteritis—in other words, “stomach flu”—and prescribed an antibiotic. Two of the children died. In Ohio alone, 500 homes were treated illegally. More than 1,500 individuals had to be relocated from their homes, at a total cost to the government of $90 million. One pest control operator who was brought to trial for the illegal use of methyl parathion attempted to defend himself by claiming that he was illiterate and so couldn’t read the label on the poison container. That defense didn’t wash when a government witness said that the man regularly read aloud from the King James Bible in church.
Now some good news. A new program, National Strategies for Health Care Providers: Pesticides Initiative, aims to incorporate environmental issues into the curricula in medical schools. The initiative is sponsored jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Labor. There is still little education for our doctors on this major health problem, but we can hope for improvement.
And America’s children are finding good friends in Congress. On January 4, 2000, the General Accounting Office released a report, done at the request of Senator Joseph Lieberman (Democrat of Connecticut), documenting 2,300 incidences of pesticide exposure in schools. Over 300 of these required medical attention. Said the senator, “We have a national framework for protecting workers on the job but no such system for protecting children in the classroom. You don’t have to be an A student to know that is a double standard that deserves our attention.” Two of Senator Lieberman’s colleagues, Senator Patty Murray (Democrat of Washington) and former Senator Robert Toricelli (Democrat of New Jersey), shared his views and introduced a bill designated the School Environmental Protection Act (S. 1716). Among other things, this law would require schools to tell parents both when pesticides are being used at their children’s schools and which specific chemicals are to be used. Unfortunately, although it was backed by a broad coalition of environmental, public interest, and educational groups, as well as the National Pest Management Association; and was attached as a rider several times to agricultural appropriations bills, this effort failed. But we can hope the senators will try again.
One of the EPA’s highest priorities is protecting the health of America’s children, and to that end it is encouraging schools to adopt the least toxic strategies to cope with insect and rodent nuisances. The agency is helping school personnel to understand and implement such methods through its publications, by awarding grants to start the programs, and by offering workshops and courses to provide guidance and assistance through partnerships with universities and national environmental institutions. The EPA’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) joins with state, municipal, and business groups to promote safe pesticide use in our nation’s schools, as well as elsewhere. In one outstanding success, New York City’s Board of Education reduced pesticide fogging by 90 percent. They had hoped to have eliminated it completely by 2000. Although many localities and school districts now recommend or even mandate that least toxic controls be observed in schools, not all of them follow these practices. Meanwhile, many children still may be exposed to potentially harmful pesticides applied by untrained custodians in their schools. They certainly don’t need to face the same risks at home.
Since the first publication of Bug Busters in 1985, I have received letters and phone calls from people thanking me for writing this book. This is my major reason for undertaking the project once more. With encouraging new developments in safe and effective pest controls, maybe we will see the grim numbers at the start of this piece start to fall.