By Rich Kozlovich
This week CBS interviewed and filmed Lonnie Alonso and his son Brian of Columbus Pest Control in Columbus, Ohio while doing a bed bug job in some poor suffering woman’s home; a home that looked perfectly clean and well cared for. That is the thing with bed bugs. They don’t discriminate in any way. They will infest anyone’s home and they don’t care how dirty or clean your home is and they don’t care how rich or poor you are. You are food to them.
Alonso explained how Ohio (which the producer noted that no state has been as aggressive at fighting this problem as Ohio has) had requested an emergency 18 exemption for propoxur, a carbamate pesticide. Propoxur was the choice because it works and there was a label already in existence. That becomes important later in the article.
It is an admittedly short term solution because it is clear that they are already developing resistance to carbamates such as Ficam in other parts of the world. We used Ficam (which killed bed bugs on contact and as a residual by the way) successfully and safely for many years in this country, but the manufacturer pulled their registration. So why would they do such a thing? Well, first of all this happened before bed bugs exploded in this country and the manufacturer wasn’t selling enough to justify meeting the EPA’s demands.
You see, the EPA requires pesticides to be reregistered after fifteen years. That means more unnecessary and expensive testing. It costs around $300,000,000 to bring a new pesticide to market. Manufacturers want to make sure that re-registration is worth it to them before they spend millions of dollars more on re-testing. Further testing for what you might ask? Who knows, because after a product has been on the open market for fifteen years you absolutely know what, if any, hazards it represents to humanity or to nature. Most importantly after fifteen years these products have probably gone out of patent. That means there is less value to the primary registrant, and in this case, there was no value incentive for the manufacturer to spend millions of dollars more to retest.
This is just another way the EPA has found to eliminate pesticides without banning them, which can be a messy process; a process in which they would probably lose. When you ban something you have to show reasons for the ban. You have to have facts, figures and….most importantly….real science. If there is none; then the product stays. They have avoided all of that through their system of rules, and in point of fact these rules make it a de facto ban without any messy legal stuff.
Organophosphates, such as Dursban absolutely kill bed bugs; on contact and as well as a residual. But in 1996 the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) was passed and that changed all the rules again. There had always been a hundred fold safety factor tied up with pesticides. FQPA arbitrarily changed it to a thousand fold. I have tried to find out what science they used to decide that this massive change was necessary…and no one seems to know, because it is all based on assumptions.
Dow Chemical was the primary registrant of Dursban, but this product represented a small part of their overall sales so they decided to let the product go. Besides, it was out of patent and others were producing it. There was little value in fighting this battle. They made a business decision; a bad business decision in my mind, but these corporations are run by bean counters, not visionaries. It is interesting to hear scientists at EPA making claims about data that would have taken this product off the market anyway. Baloney! If they had tried that they would have lost.