(Please note: This is a review of the 1985 edition of the book Bug Busters: Getting Rid of Household Pests Without Dangerous Chemicals by Bernice Lifton. I have not read subsequent editions.)
This is an important, useful and extremely practical book. According to author Lifton, over 90 percent of U.S. homeowners use pesticides to combat insect and rodent infestation. In 1981, over 20,000 people -- half of them children -- were treated for household pesticide poisoning. Dozens die each year and millions more experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, and other ill effects from such poisoning. All home pesticides are toxic, and many of the most widely-used ones -- such as Chlordane -- are suspected cancer agents.
For everyone concerned about nonhuman life, pesticides have another troubling aspect: their regular use means agony and death for great numbers of intended and unintended victims.
Bug Busters offers an alternative for people fed up with the dangers and negative consequences of pesticides, but also tired of pest infestation. In clear easy-to-understand language, it describes a variety of simple, safe, and effective ways to rid your home of bugs and rodents without using pesticides.
Drawing from the latest research findings and from time-proven methods, Bug Busters explains how one can identify and sanely treat all the major household creepy-crawlies -- including roaches, rodents, pantry bugs, mosquitoes, flies. fleas, silverfish, bedbugs, wasps, and others.
Lifton's recommended weapons are simple, natural, inexpensive, and proven in terms of safety and effectiveness. They include proper food storage, pest barriers, sunshine, home maintenance and repair, natural repellents, and improved cleanliness.
Her emphasis is on prevention: making your home and surroundings unattractive and inhospitable to pests. Instead of blaming the bugs, she focuses on human habits. Obviously, eliminating the conditions that invite pests to move in and breed is far more effective, humane, and healthy than ignoring such conditions and then periodically bombing the home with poisons to deal with the resulting infestation.
Bug Busters also exposes pest control methods of little or no value, such as ultrasonic devices (a family of mice was once found nesting in one), outdoor ultraviolet insect electrocuting devices (they may actually attract insects to your yard), and ineffective folk remedies. (Please note again, I am reviewing the 1985 version. Perhaps technology has improved since then. I do not know.)
Finally, Lifton says there are times when home pesticides are needed. She tells you how to recognize when that is the case, what pesticides to use, and how to use, store, and dispose of them safely and sensibly. She gives valuable tips on finding a competent pest control company and insuring that when they go to work they don't damage your health.
Will the methods described in Bug Busters guarantee you a pest-free home? No. Nothing -- not even regularly dosing your home with the strongest pesticides available -- can promise that. What this book can offer, Lifton says, is "a home with very few pests, if any … and a safer, more wholesome environment for you and your family all the time.”
"With reasonable care," she adds, "you may never have to use a chemical pesticide again." The possibility of having a pest- and pesticide-free household makes this book a long-awaited and much-needed practical tool for compassionate homeowners.
(This review was originally published, in a slightly different form, in The Animals’ Agenda, October 1987.)