Piperonyl butoxide is a compound in over 100 different products that we use from head lice killers, to mosquito repellents to veterinary pesticides to sprays that are used on our bedding and clothes. Both pyrethroids and Piperonyl butoxide are licensed to be used as insecticides as well, so the bag of rice you buy could contain a product similar to what you use to keep cockroaches away.
Using virulent aggressive methods against them without understanding and managing the root cause simply costs us and the environment harm. Instead, a strategic home management plan that serves to repel rather than kill is the safest way of co-existing with insects.
The secretions produced by the cockroach can alter the flavour of food. They can also pick up disease causing bacterial like Salmonella on their legs and deposit them on food or other places. The first line of defence is, therefore, to simply examine cockroach routes in your home and seal them. This would include cracks near the door, the windows, and your plumbing lines in the kitchen.
Several natural plant based materials used at low doses work very well. Many of them are household waste or hopefully compost. Crushed cucumber peels have been tested in Kansas State University to effectively repel cockroaches. These need to be replaced periodically. Dried lemon peels and cloves are also excellent cockroach repellents. A combination of these can be put into pouches and stored in several corners.
Our very own Vasambu, Acorus calamus, is also a good broad-spectrum insect repellent. It can not only be used to repeal cockroaches but can also be used to repeal weevils and insects commonly found in rice and dried lentils.
Certain essential oils, like peppermint oil, citronella oil, tea tree oil, and Neem oil have insect repellent properties. Using a solution of six to ten drops of these essential oils in half a litre of water is not only fragrant but is also a strong repellent. The remaining liquid can be poured around drains and sinks at night.
These methods may seem hard to follow and we might be tempted to reach for a handy aerosol can. Do read the ingredients and safety precautions listed on the back of these cans, and choose a safer method instead.
Piperonyl butoxide is labelled as a Class C carcinogen or a possible human carcinogen. Studies suggest that by interfering with hormone metabolism, it may damage organs like the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands and may weaken the immune system too.