[Infographic] It’s a House of Horrors in Your Paper Waste Pile

Melanie Attia, October 21, 2014

There’s no need to buy a ticket to the spook house this Halloween. All you need to do is take a peek in the file cabinet, on the book shelf, or in those storage boxes.  Your worst nightmares, phobias, revulsions and fears are lurking between the pages to freak you out. Here are some spooky things hiding out in your paper waste. 

  • Think a bookworm is harmless? The kinds we’re talking about don’t wear reading glasses. These are larvae of almost any common beetle that bores through wood and paper. Frightful!
  • This is going to give you night frights. Silverfish are nocturnal insects that wiggle about in a way that resembles a fish. They can survive for two to eight years on a diet that includes book bindings, glue and paper waste.  They do have predators such as earwigs, house centipedes, and spiders. Wait. But that’s not good news. It’s an invasion!
  • Nightmares aren’t just on Elm Street. Believe it or not, termites have a role in the ecosystem. They are the recyclers of downed trees and decaying stumps. But with houses and buildings taking over the terrain, they’re invading our habitats and they’re munching on our paper waste.
  • These may be creepier than spiders! Pseudoscorpions are often found in rooms with dusty books. They ride in on insects or firewood to hunt, kill and eat booklice and house dust mites.  Just imagine these creeping up from your fingers to your arms and onto your bodies. The thought of it is simply bone-chilling!
  • Oh yea, booklice. These microscopic creepy crawlers feast onmold or mildew that grows on books in dark, damp environments. This isn’t just a ghost story folks!  Female booklice, ranging in color from translucent white to gray or brown, can produce about 60 eggs and their life cycle can be completed in less than one month. All of that might be going on right on your bookshelf!
  • They're creeping up on you! Cockroaches will eat just about anything include. The scavengers feast on a menu including waste paper, glue, leather, and book bindings.  And they’re gross. Roaches eat garbage and waste so they can spread bacteria like Salmonella; they cause stains and odors; and they can also cause allergic reactions such as asthma.
  • That’s not an elephant in the room. Does the thought of mice and rats scampering about make you cringe? Like the pachyderm, many humans fear mice and rats.  If you’re one of those suffering from musophobia, you may want to think twice about the keeping old books and paper lying around. The cellulose and starches found in these make a smorgasbord for these rodents. And they’re not just chewing on it. What goes in must go out. Ewww!
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  • What’s that weird smell? Mold and mildew live off of organic material. That old book smell is actually fungi growing on the pages.  The results of the growth can be a real terror for those with allergies or asthma.
  • Danger! Dusty books ahead! You can find just about anything on the internet, including a study on library dust. Pay Attention to Books' Deadly Dust: Relationship of Lung Cancer and Heart Attack to Library Books' Dust exposes the risks librarians and readers (not just bookworms) face. "The dust today is not a problem of appearance, but a problem of health. Dust particulates are one of the most harmful matters that you can inhale."  

Share this infographic with your friends, co-workers and family. You might just save them from a horrible encounter!