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CockroachCrisis
Some researchers now believe that the lowly cockroach is second only to lead based paint as a potential health risk to children.


      "We're finding a surprisingly high percentage of people, no matter what socioeconomic class, are allergic to cockroaches. They're appalled at this." Dr. John Murray/Allergist.

"The one thing I would do is help people get rid of cockroaches" Dr. Richard Evans, an asthma specialist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago


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Five years ago it was learned that 8.6 percent of children in the Bronx, NY, had asthma; double the rate for urban residents nationally. So a team of researchers set out to determine why asthma would be such a severe inter-city health problem. Medical specialists knew that asthma in children is usually is caused by an allergic reaction to a substance that makes them wheeze, called an antigen, so researchers spent $17 million vacuuming dust, administering allergy tests and poring over the medical records of poor children in the worst neighborhoods in seven major cities.

The National Cooperative Inner City Asthma Study, secured funding, then set out to discover and identify the antigens in poor children's environment that contribute to asthma. Initially, the experts assumed it would turn out to be the common dust mite, the ubiquitous microscopic bug that, along with cats, is the leading cause of asthma in the suburbs. But after testing 1,528 children under the age of 10 and visiting about half of their homes, the leading antigen by far was discovered to be proteins in the droppings and dead bodies of Blattella Gemmanica, the German Cockroach. Of all the possible asthma-provoking materials children encounter in their home, cockroach antigens are now believed to be the most powerful.

The surprising result is likely, in time, to change the way the medical world thinks about childhood asthma Already those in charge of the study view these bugs as a serious public health hazard. Dr. Richard Evans, an asthma specialist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago hardly paused when asked to name the single most urgent step to prevent the problem he sees every day. "The one thing I would do is help people get rid of cockroaches" he said.

Decrepit housing is also considered to be a major problem that contributes to asthma among the poor. As are broken families where no one adult takes charge of children’s health care.


Roach removal can be among the most frustrating problems that landlords face.

      Professional exterminator's method of choice is usually a chemical named pyrithrin sprayed on surfaces that the roaches are likely to cross, typically around baseboards and in cupboards. The feet of a cockroach are like suction-cups that allow it to walk up walls and across ceilings. As a result, the chemical is picked up by their feet. Cockroaches clean their feet and ingest the pyrithrin.
      Roach eggs hatch in 30 day cycles so it is often necessary to repeat the spraying treatment once or twice over 60 days.

      The following are a few tips submitted by RHOL members for reducing an existing cockroach infestation that don't use dangerous chemicals.

  • Sticky traps (the Roach Motel type) can be purchased and placed, indoors, near the garbage, under the sink, in the cabinets where food is stored, under and behind the refrigerator, and in the bathroom. Sticky traps are not recommended for outdoor locations because they do not usually hold the larger cockroaches and are not resistant to weather.
  • Baited jars. Any empty pickle, mayonnaise or peanut butter jar, with a rounded inside lip, will work. Grease the inside upper lip with a thin film of Vaseline (to keep them from escaping) and place a quarter slice of beer-soaked bread into the jar. Any food will do if you don't want to share your beer. Wrap the outside walls of the jar with something or put it against a wall so the roaches have a surface to grasp as they climb. To get rid of the live, trapped cockroaches simply pour dishwashing detergent into the jar and add hot water. The cockroaches can then be dumped outside or in the garbage. Wash out the jar and repeat the process every 2-3 days.
  • Some landlords claim that Boric Acid powder is the best killer of roaches. One pound of boric acid distributed in out-of-the-way places with a spoon or plastic squeeze bottle will control roaches in the average apartment. It should be used with care around pets and kept out of the reach of children.
  • To kill roaches and keep them from coming back, make a paste by combining one can of condensed milk with an equal amount of boric acid powder. Mix with flower until the mixture is the consistency of putty. Then apply it around the floorboards, under sinks and in the back of cupboards and let it dry.

Knowledge & Understanding. The first step in solving any kind of problem is to know as much as possible about what you are dealing with. Each insect species prefer different environments and respond to different solutions, so identification is important. A typical infestation of cockroaches is comprised of different sizes, including reproducing adults with wings (usually) and immature bugs that do not have wings. Check out Cockroach Management and Control for an almost Ph.D. education on the subject. You will find a compilation of practically everything you ever wanted to know about Cockroaches, and a great deal you may wish you didn't know, including the Cockroach Picture Gallery.

There is also a site on the web called Cockroach Management Without Insecticides that has a great deal of additional information on environmentally sound cockroach management. Obtaining management of a cockroach infestation is not simply an issue of aesthetics because in some instances, persons living in houses treated with insecticide experience bad reactions to the chemicals. The fact that homes remain sealed and the inside environment not subject to normal degradative processes allows pesticides to remain active for longer periods than if they were applied outdoors.

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