Cockroaches Win

Growing up in Long Island in a nearly 100-year old wooden house meant there were innumerable opportunities for bugs to enter–everything from stinging, buzzing, and blood-sucking creatures found their way in. We did have one really good weapon against them. Periodically, we would vacate the house for the day, and my mother would set up the “bug bomb”—the pesticide fogger that would penetrate the hiding places of all those nasty pests. It worked miracles. The bugs cleared out, and we returned to a home that would be clear of pests for quite a while. We never had a problem because my mother followed the directions on the label.

But because some people don’t bother to follow label directions, New York State nanny regulators are considering taking this option away from New Yorkers. And the New York City Department of Health has recently petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restrict use elsewhere.

It is true that some people have had problems with these products because they disregard the directions, and some do really stupid things.  Directions include turning off pilot lights and appliances and only using the number of foggers suited to treat your space. Potential dangers of misuse are noted right on the container.   Snopes reports, one person actually set off 19 bug bombs in a 470 square foot home, and yes, it exploded! Surprise, surprise.

But lots of products have risks that we tolerate because they have important value. We don’t ban perishable foods because some people get sick by ignoring the “refrigerate after opening” direction. We don’t ban automobile coolants because they are poisonous if consumed.  Instead the directions tell us to keep them away from children and pets who might consume them.  We don’t ban gasoline used in our lawn mowers because its causes fires when stored improperly.  And so on.

While New York city officials raise all the prospects for misuse of this product, they don’t weigh that against the benefits. In places like New York City, insects, such as cockroaches are the sources of disease and allergens. And for many kids with asthma, those are very serious risks—life and death risks in some cases. See CEI’s briefs here and here on this topic for more information.  These affordable foggers are a solution for many low-income communities where cockroach allergens are a particularly serious problem for many kids.

What are the regulators in New York suggesting as an answer to people who need these products?  Caulk up the places where the bugs come in! Good luck caulking up 50-story, hundred year-old apartment buildings in places like New York City!

If New York regulators get their way, the only other option will be for people to hire an exterminator.  So basically, if your income is too low and your kid has allergies and asthma related to cockroaches, you will be out of luck. The cockroaches win, you loose.