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JUNE 2003
Volume 95, Issue 5

GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLetters

It might sound ridiculous, but “potty parity” is an issue…

Cockroach note breeds another
Re: The letter from Neil Fiertel, SB’64, on “Cockroaches as heavy breathers” (April/03): In 1945, as WW II was coming to an end, the section of the University of Chicago Toxicity Laboratory I worked in as a “research assistant in anatomy” was switched from evaluating potential poison gases, protective ointments and clothing to doing some early research on insecticides such as DDT. The work on poison gases and insecticides was funded by and operated for the Chemical Warfare Service.

To carry out our insecticide research we required the Periplanet americana cockroach. We discovered that large colonies were available in the Zoology Building. We then employed “cockroach bounty hunters” to scour the basement for roaches, for which we paid $.50/roach.

As our research progressed we found that this supposed endless supply of roaches was in fact running out. We luckily found a massive roach supply at ARGO (corn products) and began importing from there.

One main conclusion of our research was that DDT in acetone, placed on the roach’s chitinous exoskeleton, was as toxic as when injected underneath the body’s outer surface. We thought it unlikely that the absorption occurred through the spiracles as the acetone solution was placed a considerable distance away. I don’t recall our being aware of the heavy breathing described by Mr. Fiertel. As the DDT became a dust when the acetone evaporated, the breathing could have been a factor worthy of our consideration.

I was not surprised that cockroaches still abound at the U. of C. We know they are heavy breeders as well as heavy breathers.

Joseph Savit, SB’42
Glencoe, Illinois

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