pest control

Children’s Health: A link between Allergies, Asthma and School Attendance

By Marcia Anderson

 Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Many schools have shown a high incidence of students missing valuable school days due to asthma and allergies. In many of the same schools that report a high incidence of absenteeism, we have also found cockroach infestations in cafeterias, storage closets and teacher break rooms.

Is there a relationship between cockroach exposure, allergies and asthma?

Most people with asthma have allergic responses in their bronchial tubes when they breathe in particles of the right size and shape and composed of materials recognized by their immune system. Exposure to things like mold, cat dander, ragweed, pollen, and rodent and cockroach droppings can elicit an allergic reaction.

The proteins in cockroach feces and their decomposing bodies are of just the right size to be lifted into the air, inhaled and recognized by the immune system as a signal to make an allergic reaction in some people. This is asthma. Airborne cockroach allergens will stick to particles, like dust, that quickly settle onto dust-trapping fabrics found on upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains. Activities like vacuuming, or even walking may stir up these allergens.

An asthma attack can happen when a student is exposed to “asthma triggers.” One child’s triggers can be very different from those of another child or an adult with asthma.

What Causes the Allergic Reaction? The job of the immune system is to find foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, and get rid of them. This protects us from dangerous diseases. People with allergies have supersensitive immune systems that react when they inhale, swallow or touch certain substances such as pollen or dust that contain the allergens. Some people are born with allergies. Others seem to acquire these allergic sensitivities as they grow older.

Asthma Studies: A 2014 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed marked geographic differences in allergen exposure and sensitivity in inner city children. Early exposure to cockroach allergens can actually cause asthma to develop in preschool aged children. Inhaling particles from cockroaches can cause coughing and wheezing in babies less than 12 months of age. A lack of understanding about asthma and its treatment may cause further risk of severe, undertreated asthma. In many low income communities, coughing and wheezing are accepted as part of normal growing up and medical care may not be sought because it isn’t considered necessary, or it is too difficult to access.

A National Institutes of Health research project demonstrated a definitive connection between income and the severity of asthma in the population (http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/sept98/niaid-21.htm). The study compared people hospitalized for asthma in six major U.S. cities. It found that the lower the average income, the more frequent the need for hospitalization for severe asthmatic attacks.

Exposure to the things that stimulate asthma like cockroaches, second hand smoke, mold, and air pollution are often greater in poor households. In dwellings where the amount of cockroach allergens are high, exposure is high and the rate of hospitalization for asthma goes up.

Keeping your home and family safe: The EPA recommends that you use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control. Smart because IPM creates a safer and healthier environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides. Sensible since practical strategies are used to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in buildings. Sustainable because the emphasis is on prevention that makes it an economically advantageous approach.

Actions you can take: From cracks to drain traps to groceries, cockroaches can find a way into your home in the oddest of places. Focus on sanitation to eliminate food sources, moisture sources, and harborage for the insects. At least every two to three days, vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches.

Allergen concentrations are generally highest in kitchens where there is plenty of food and water for cockroaches. Keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean, dry and free of clutter. Clean dishes, crumbs and spills right away. Store food in airtight containers. Seal cracks or openings around or inside cabinets to keep cockroaches out.

Next are bedrooms where people inhale the allergens that have settled into bedding. Wash bedding regularly in hot water and remove any unnecessary fabrics like curtains and upholstered furniture. Replace carpeting with smooth flooring that can be damp-mopped.

Controlling Cockroaches. To prevent and treat cockroach infestations in your home use IPM methods first – sanitation followed by low-impact pesticides such as baits, or gels.

EPA offers more information about cockroaches and asthma along with a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. We also recommend reviewing EPA’s Asthma Checklist and exploring the EPA-sponsored Asthma Community Network website.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Children’s Health: A link between Allergies, Asthma and School Attendance

By Marcia Anderson

 Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Many schools have shown a high incidence of students missing valuable school days due to asthma and allergies. In many of the same schools that report a high incidence of absenteeism, we have also found cockroach infestations in cafeterias, storage closets and teacher break rooms.

Is there a relationship between cockroach exposure, allergies and asthma?

Most people with asthma have allergic responses in their bronchial tubes when they breathe in particles of the right size and shape and composed of materials recognized by their immune system. Exposure to things like mold, cat dander, ragweed, pollen, and rodent and cockroach droppings can elicit an allergic reaction.

The proteins in cockroach feces and their decomposing bodies are of just the right size to be lifted into the air, inhaled and recognized by the immune system as a signal to make an allergic reaction in some people. This is asthma. Airborne cockroach allergens will stick to particles, like dust, that quickly settle onto dust-trapping fabrics found on upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains. Activities like vacuuming, or even walking may stir up these allergens.

An asthma attack can happen when a student is exposed to “asthma triggers.” One child’s triggers can be very different from those of another child or an adult with asthma.

What Causes the Allergic Reaction? The job of the immune system is to find foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, and get rid of them. This protects us from dangerous diseases. People with allergies have supersensitive immune systems that react when they inhale, swallow or touch certain substances such as pollen or dust that contain the allergens. Some people are born with allergies. Others seem to acquire these allergic sensitivities as they grow older.

Asthma Studies: A 2014 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed marked geographic differences in allergen exposure and sensitivity in inner city children. Early exposure to cockroach allergens can actually cause asthma to develop in preschool aged children. Inhaling particles from cockroaches can cause coughing and wheezing in babies less than 12 months of age. A lack of understanding about asthma and its treatment may cause further risk of severe, undertreated asthma. In many low income communities, coughing and wheezing are accepted as part of normal growing up and medical care may not be sought because it isn’t considered necessary, or it is too difficult to access.

A National Institutes of Health research project demonstrated a definitive connection between income and the severity of asthma in the population (http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/sept98/niaid-21.htm). The study compared people hospitalized for asthma in six major U.S. cities. It found that the lower the average income, the more frequent the need for hospitalization for severe asthmatic attacks.

Exposure to the things that stimulate asthma like cockroaches, second hand smoke, mold, and air pollution are often greater in poor households. In dwellings where the amount of cockroach allergens are high, exposure is high and the rate of hospitalization for asthma goes up.

Keeping your home and family safe: The EPA recommends that you use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control. Smart because IPM creates a safer and healthier environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides. Sensible since practical strategies are used to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in buildings. Sustainable because the emphasis is on prevention that makes it an economically advantageous approach.

Actions you can take: From cracks to drain traps to groceries, cockroaches can find a way into your home in the oddest of places. Focus on sanitation to eliminate food sources, moisture sources, and harborage for the insects. At least every two to three days, vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches.

Allergen concentrations are generally highest in kitchens where there is plenty of food and water for cockroaches. Keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean, dry and free of clutter. Clean dishes, crumbs and spills right away. Store food in airtight containers. Seal cracks or openings around or inside cabinets to keep cockroaches out.

Next are bedrooms where people inhale the allergens that have settled into bedding. Wash bedding regularly in hot water and remove any unnecessary fabrics like curtains and upholstered furniture. Replace carpeting with smooth flooring that can be damp-mopped.

Controlling Cockroaches. To prevent and treat cockroach infestations in your home use IPM methods first – sanitation followed by low-impact pesticides such as baits, or gels.

EPA offers more information about cockroaches and asthma along with a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. We also recommend reviewing EPA’s Asthma Checklist and exploring the EPA-sponsored Asthma Community Network website.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

A Mother and Her Son Deal with Bed Bugs.

By Marcia Anderson

Bed bug up close - Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki

Bed bug up close – Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki

As a former EPA Regional bed bug consultant, I still occasionally receive calls to assist people with bed bug related issues. A few months ago, I answered several calls and emails from Mattie, a distraught mom who not only had a bed bug infestation, but had received questionable advice about bed bug control that affected her son’s health. Here is her story.

Mattie discovered she had a bed bug problem when her nine year old grandson went back home with his parents with bumps and swollen arms and legs. His parents took him to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with having an allergic reaction to bites from some bugs. Mattie’s son, Peter, was also bitten and showed allergic symptoms. Peter suffers from chronic respiratory issues.

They soon discovered that the bites were likely from bed bugs that they found when looking around the apartment. The bed bugs were seen coming out of a crevice in the wall above Peter’s bed. That wall, unknown to Mattie’s family at the time, is adjacent to another apartment that was recently found to have bed bugs.

The landlord instructed Mattie to wash EVERYTHING and gave her just five days to clean out her entire apartment. “We had to wash over 35 loads of clothing, bedding and everything else that had fabric. Peter and I were exhausted,” Mattie wrote in one of her emails.

In the meantime, the landlord arranged for a well-known pest control service to treat the apartment. Mattie reminded the landlord about Peter’s and her health concerns. The landlord told her that they could return to the apartment after it was sprayed and not to worry – the pest control company was professional and would not apply anything that wasn’t safe. The landlord also informed her that the pest control company said there was a severe care of bed bugs in Peter’s room but that no other rooms were infested. Peter’s mattress and bed would need to be thrown out.

Mattie and Peter were given a temporary hotel stay by a local aid agency because of their asthma. She found that four different pesticides had been applied in the apartment and that the pest control company would be returning in five days to check and re-spray.

Mattie continued, “When Peter and I returned to the apartment after two days, we became ill. I could smell the spray. My son began to have tightness in his chest, and so did I. It was apparent that even with the windows open and the ceiling fan blowing that it was going to be impossible to stay in that apartment.” Mattie was concerned about the effect of these pesticides on their respiratory systems, and both had to have breathing treatments when they arrived at the respite house for the rest of the week.

I responded to Mattie: “I was surprised that the pest control company used all of those pesticides. There are other methods of treating bed bugs, such as radiant heat, steam and freezing that do not require the use of pesticides. These methods can easily be followed-up by the use of bed bug barriers and low toxicity pesticides placed strategically in walls and other areas that would not exacerbate your families’ medical conditions.

You do not need to throw out any mattresses, box springs or beds. Instead, purchase encasements for each. The encasements will trap any bed bugs and they will die. If this was a severe infestation, as the landlord reported, some of the bugs would have spread into surrounding rooms, so precautions should be taken throughout the apartment. Until your bed bug problem is gone, use clear plastic boxes to store your clothes and other items that you use on a regular basis. Bed bugs will have a difficult time climbing up the slick plastic sides of the boxes, eliminating yet another hiding place.

As you sleep, bed bugs will try to climb onto the bed for a blood meal. So, move your bed a few inches away from the wall and ensure no bedding is touching the floor. Then, place bed bug interceptors, available on the Internet, under the bed legs and under the legs of all other plush furniture in your apartment.

Be aware that in most cases, pesticides alone will not eliminate bed bugs. Effective bed bug control requires a diverse set of practices called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on knowledge of the pest and a combination of common sense practices, such as inspection, monitoring, reducing clutter, the use of physical barriers, and the judicious and careful use of pesticides, if needed.

An astute pest management professional would have used a less toxic approach to rid you of the bed bugs. I am sorry that you had such an awful experience and hope that others reading this article will learn from your painful lesson.”

Be a strong advocate for your family’s health and for an IPM approach. Find out the exact course of action that is planned for your dwelling BEFORE they treat. Insist on exploring preventative and non-pesticidal options first. For more information on bed bugs and their control go to: http://www.epa.gov/bedbugs.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A is for Ant: Keeping Ants Out of the Classroom (Part 2)

Close-up of ant feeding.

Close-up of ant feeding.

By Marcia Anderson

The Benefits of Ants in classrooms. Ants have been observed and documented as good examples for humans for their hard work and cooperation since the dawn of history. Lessons abound in literature, such as: The Ant and the Grasshopper, one of Aesop’s Fables and they are in Hopi mythology. More recent literature includes: A Tramp Abroad, by Mark Twain, Departmental by Robert Frost, The Once and Future King by T.H. White and H.G. Wells’ The Empire of the Ants.

Kids easily relate to ants, just think about all of the 3-D animated films that have been produced: Antz, A Bug’s Life, The Ant and the Aardvark and Atom ant. Can you recall playing the award winning video game Sim Ant in the early 1990s? Many other games and science fiction insectoids have followed since. However, other than in literature, history, mathematics and art, ants are best kept outdoors.

In an earlier blog, I presented information on keeping ants out of the classroom schools and the importance of a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach for their management known as Integrated Pest Management or IPM. Here are some additional tactics to round out a good ant IPM plan:

Sanitation. Sanitation eliminates the food that ants need to survive. Get rid of their food and you get rid of the ant problem. If children regularly receive meals in classrooms, those floors should be vacuumed and/or mopped daily. Make sure that all sinks are drained and clean by the end of the day. Periodically give all food preparation areas an all-inclusive cleaning, focusing on areas where grease and food debris accumulate. These include drains, vents, stoves, and hard-to-reach areas behind or between appliances. At the end of each day, remove all garbage containing food from the building.

Ants follow pheromone trails and reinforce them as they walk.

Ants follow pheromone trails and reinforce them as they walk.

Proper Food Storage. An ant infestation may indicate a need to change current methods of storing food or food waste. All food should be kept in the refrigerator or stored in pest-proof containers with lids that close tightly. As soon as food arrives in the building transfer it into clear plastic or glass containers. Do not leave food in cardboard boxes and paper as they are not ant or roach-proof. Outdoor refuse containers should be emptied and washed regularly and recyclables should be cleaned before storage.

How are ants able to follow one another around? They leave pheromone trails as they walk and each ant reinforces the trail as they head back to the colony with food. Detergent and water is an easy and safe way to eliminate this trail and the ant followers. When ants invade a classroom or food preparation area, an emergency treatment is detergent and water in a spray bottle. This mixture will quickly erase the trail and immobilize the ants. They can be wiped up with a sponge and washed down the drain.

For tougher problems, where non-chemical methods haven’t solved the problem, integrating ant baits, traps or other low-impact pesticides into your management program may be warranted. For information on ant control in schools go to: http://www.sites.ext.vt.edu/schoolipm/ipmtechniques/documents/ants.pdf .

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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School Parties, Holiday Crafts… and ants? (A is for Ants-Part 1)

By Marcia Anderson

 A is for Ant

A is for Ant

Remember the ant marching song: “…The ants go marching two by two hurrah, hurrah…” The ants are lining up to enter classrooms around the country, eagerly following our children. Why? Why are ants the most common insects found in schools? Ants do not attend class for the math lesson. They could care less about multiplication, dividends or square roots. The dividends they are looking for are the crumbs students have dropped or left in their desks. With the holidays around the corner, many schools celebrate with food and special treats. If ants cannot find food, they will march on to, perhaps the kitchen or other classrooms.

It is important to recognize that most ants can be both beneficial and pests. Most ants are not a serious threat to human health or property, with the exception of carpenter ants (or fire ants in southern states). Ants provide an important ecological cleansing and fertilization service by aerating the soil outdoors and recycling dead animal and vegetable material. Ants also kill numerous pest insects, including fly larvae, termites, fleas, and caterpillars. Ants become pests when they invade school buildings searching for food and water to take back to their nests.

Before taking any action against an invading ant, be sure there is more than one ant present. Just one may have hitchhiked in on food packaging, clothing, or a backpack that had been placed on the ground for a while outside. Multiple worker ants (those without wings) suggest a nearby nest and an entrance hole. Take a few minutes to watch the ants. Where are they going? Where did they come from?

Did you know that there are approximately over a quadrillion ants alive in the world at any one time, or about one million ants for every human on earth? So it is neither desirable nor practical to try to eliminate most ants from their outside habitat.

 Ants feeding.

Ants feeding.

Ant control. Management efforts should aim at keeping them out of structures as part of a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control called Integrated Pest Management or IPM. Ant control should focus on excluding ants from the building, good sanitation, and building maintenance rather than routine spraying with pesticides, which may not always be effective. Ant management requires continuous effort.

Inspection and Detection. Often it takes detective work and ingenuity to discover where ants are coming from. When you spot large numbers of ants in a trail, try to follow the ants to where they are entering the building. Carry a good flashlight. Take good notes during your inspection and record problem areas, entry locations and areas needing repair. If a nest is found inside, it must be removed. Call your IPM coordinator or a pest management professional for help. To do it yourself, use an industrial vacuum, and vacuum up some cornstarch to prevent ants from escaping, then seal and destroy the vacuumed material.

Habitat modification: Exclusion. By carefully sealing places where ants enter, you will make a long-term impact on the number of ant invasions. Begin with sealing actual and potential entryways – especially where wires and pipes enter the building, then weather-strip around doors and windows. Always carry a tube of sealant when making inspections and seal as many cracks as time allows, especially those around baseboards, pipes, sinks, toilets, and electrical outlets. Silicone sealant is flexible, easy to apply, and long-lasting. Keep plants and mulch away from the foundation of buildings as they provide ant nesting sites.

For more information on ant control in schools go to: http://www.sites.ext.vt.edu/schoolipm/ipmtechniques/documents/ants.pdf and look for more information in a future blog.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Two NYU Co-eds, Bring Home Unwelcome Guests from their Spring Break Trip

By Marcia Anderson

I just got a panicked call from Amanda, a mom whose daughter and roommate came home from a spring break trip to Panama City, Florida, with bed bugs. Amanda told me that a recent cold front brought temperatures down to near freezing in Northern Florida, so instead of partying on the beach, 20 or so students crammed into a beachside motel where some friends were staying and they returned to New York City with more than they bargained for.

Luckily, New York University has extensive experience with bed bugs and has a lot of useful information on its website.

Here is some additional advice for Amanda and other parents of traveling students if they suspect that their offspring came home with a few hitchhikers:

Upon arriving home, never place luggage or clothing directly on the bed. Sprinkle a little talcum powder on the bottom of the bathtub and have your student drop their luggage in the bathtub along with all of their outer clothing. A bathtub provides a slippery surface hindering the bed bugs from climbing out and crawling around. The talcum powder makes even less traction for the bed bug.

Heat dry all clothing, including sneakers, sandals and jackets, in a clothes dryer set on high for a half hour. Use a large garbage bag to transport the clothes to the dryer. Dispose of the bag, and place the clean clothes in a clean bag.

Inspect and wipe down all other items, such as packages, very carefully. If you are unsure about some items, like books, place them in a zip-lock bag and freeze for a week.

Don’t forget to vacuum your student’s path from the front door to the bathroom drop site. When finished, vacuum up a little talcum powder as well. It will make the insides of the vacuum too slippery for vacuumed bed bugs to crawl out. Place the vacuum bag and contents in a plastic bag, knot it or seal it tightly and dispose of it properly.

Take your time and do a thorough job, as bed bugs can hide in the tiniest of cracks or crevices and can live for over six months without a meal. In addition, it only takes one pregnant female bed bug to be responsible for creating 32,000 additional bed bugs in six months.

What about the car that transported her home? A steam cleaning of the interior should take care of any unwanted hitchhikers.

Still worried? Purchase bed bug interceptors and place them under all bed, couch and upholstered chair legs. Keep the interceptors in place for at least six months. Move the bed a few inches away from the wall, so that these tiny vampires can’t find a way up onto the bed to feed on a sleeping victim. Remove anything stored under the bed. You can also sprinkle a little Diatomaceous Earth (DE) under the bed, couch or recliner. Follow all label directions. DE works to kill bed bugs physically, not chemically.

Amanda, next year for spring break, send your daughter and her friends with the EPA Bed Bug Traveler card. It’s the size of a credit card, but packs a lot of important information.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Really “Stinky” Christmas Tree

By Marcia Anderson

Last year, my husband and son went on their annual Christmas tree hunt. They came home with a lovely tree that was home to our lights, ornaments and garland, and it filled our home with the fresh scent of spruce.  Christmas came and went, and the tree dried out. While taking off the lights and ornaments, I found a few “shield shaped” bugs on the branches. For the next four months my house was overrun with the most putrid smelling bugs that I ever encountered.

When my husband brought the tree in from the cold outdoors, the stink bugs awoke from their winter slumber. As long as the tree was fresh, the stink bugs blissfully drank its sap.  However, as the tree dried, the sap was no longer available, so the stink bugs migrated all over the house looking for another meal. They targeted bathrooms and the kitchen which have ready water sources, and rooms with houseplants. They even swam in the dogs’ water dish. All winter long I battled stink bugs. They made the vacuum smell. The dog stank. I soon found the easiest way to get rid of them was to give them an eternal swim in the porcelain whirlpool.

Want to avoid a winter long battle? Bring a strong flashlight with you when you are selecting your tree. Check carefully on the trunk and undersides of the branches for the brown, ugly bugs. If you squeeze them you will quickly learn where they get their name.

Advice: Find them? Then find a different tree.

Stink bugs got their name from the rotting smell they give off when threatened or crushed. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Answering Fears of Students about Bed Bugs in their City Schools

By Marcia Anderson

Byron e-mails: “Today every student on my team at school received a letter about inspectors spotting a bed bug in one of our classrooms. They said they will not issue a pest control spray because it is just a small case of one bed bug… I don’t want to go to school until the pests are clear, but sadly that’s part of my life and I have to go. What can I do to keep these disgusting creatures out of my home?!”

Anna writes: “…My school has a bed bug infestation because of what I found last week in class. I was at my table when I found a bedbug crawling on the desk. I immediately killed it and blood came out of it. It was small so there must be more. What can I do? I already advised some teachers and students as well as my principal but (they) have not done anything? What should I do?”

Dear Byron and Anna,

Your school administrators are correct advising parents to be on the lookout for bed bugs that may hitch a ride to school. However, the sighting of one bed bug does not mean that there is an infestation at your schools. Chances are that the bed bug(s) hitchhiked in from a student or staff member that either has bed bugs at home, or picked them up on the way to school.

Your administrators were being cautious about applying chemicals in a school that may not have an infestation. Although it is important to keep schools free of pests, many pesticides are inherently toxic and may have potential health risks, especially when used in the vicinity of children. Because humans and pests depend on the same food chain, it is not surprising that the use of chemicals that are intended to kill pests comes with some unknown risks to people. Sprayed pesticides may become airborne and settle on toys, desks, counters, shades and walls. Children and staff may breathe in contaminated air or touch contaminated surfaces and unknowingly expose themselves to invisible residues. Accumulations of pesticides can linger for months beyond the initial application. The proper course of action is to investigate the extent of the pest problem and then use the least toxic steps to mitigate the problem, such as barriers, sanitation and maintenance prior to pesticide applications, if needed. This is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which is mandated for schools in many states and practiced in New York City schools. Vacuuming, steam cleaning, the use of hot dryers, plastic boxes for storage, and removing clutter where pests may harbor is the preferred action for single bed bug sightings in schools. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Sara and a Social Service Oversight

By Marcia Anderson

A bed bug story comes to my desk from Sara:

“I have been taking care of young people from a social services program for over 11yrs and don’t plan to stop, however, now I have bed bugs in my home that came from one of the residents that I have taken into my home.  The program knew that the young man had a history of transporting bed bugs from home to home but never informed me of this information.  I found out only after my house had become infested.  The young man would go on a home visit every other week to his house and then return to my home.

Bed bug eggs

After the young man came back from one of his home visits he broke down and told me that every time he went on a home visit he would wake up and find bed bugs on him.  The young man was told not to tell anyone. In January, when we picked him up from the home visit we had him put his suitcase in a garbage bag.  Sure enough when we arrived home the suitcase had crawling bed bugs.  Since then, I got a very bad infection from bed bug bites that turned into blisters and sores that were very hard to heal.

I had a pest control come out to my home to confirm that I had bed bugs and I was told to throw out most of my furniture and belongings worth thousands of dollars. It’s going to cost at least $1400 to treat my home.  I had asked the social services program to work with me and a least pay for the treatment because they knew about this young man history and didn’t share it with me before I took him in to live with me. The program only offered me $500.00 for everything

Who can I hold responsible for the cost of treatments and the anguish that I have gone through? What else can I do to protect my family from a reoccurrence?”

Dear Sara,

First, you are doing a great thing for children that really need the help, so keep up the good work. Second, you should not have lost any furniture. It is not hard – just time consuming to control bed bugs. If you were told to discard items from your apartment, you need to discard that pest control company. Only the most infested pieces may need to be discarded, anything else can be heat or steam treated. Next, use encasements on the mattresses and box springs and interceptors under bed and couch legs. Clothes, curtains, and linens can be treated in a clothes dryer set on high to kill both bed bugs and eggs. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Protecting New Yorkers from Illegal Pesticides

By Marcia Anderson

I am part of the R2 Pesticides Program, which multiple times a year, conducts a number of sweeps for illegal pesticides in and around New York City. We do this to protect consumers, their children, pets and wildlife from the potential dangers of unregistered, illegal pesticides.  Under federal pesticides law, all pesticide products sold in the U.S. must be registered with the EPA. Before a pesticide product is registered, the producer of the product must provide data from tests done according to EPA guidelines to ensure that the product does not make people sick, when directions on the label are followed. If a product is not registered, the EPA cannot be certain of the toxicity and efficacy of the product.

First, by definition, pesticides are designed to kill. Second, illegal pesticides may contain unknown ingredients. Many illegal pesticides are toxic. The ingredients in illegal pesticides may be harmful to people and/or the environment, and they may be banned for use in the United States. Consumers may unwittingly purchase or obtain illegal versions that may contain different ingredients or concentrations, sometimes much higher than the legal product. These illegal products have not been tested and their labels have not been reviewed for use directions and safety warnings.

Last week in an inspection at JFK Cargo Airport, we were alerted to several entries of illegal pesticides intercepted by the US Customs New York office. We conducted an inspection and found a shipment of 710 units of cockroach gel application systems and cockroach powder insecticide with unknown ingredients. Through an agreement with the US Customs office, the entire shipment was quarantined last week.  This week, the Pesticides Team and the US Customs NY District office have intercepted two more shipments of illegal pesticides originating in China. The joint effort resulted in confiscating over 50 cases of Cockroach Killer Bait and Smoke Kill Roach insecticides.  Arrangements were made to have these illegal pesticides destroyed by US Customs on EPA’s behalf.

When we find illegal products in the marketplace, they are immediately removed from the shelves. We back-trace the product to the distributor or the importer to determine how it entered the country, and whether any additional shipments of the illegal product have reached other stores and they are contacted to remove the product from their shelves also. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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