Friday, August 27, 2010

We Don't Need No Stinking Badges!

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.

There is a rub though; those with the financial wherewithal can afford to get rid of them. It is the people at the bottom of the economic structure that are suffering the most because they are left largely defenseless. They are also spreading them everywhere they go, and those who can afford it will find that they are being re-infested, along with the Empire State Building, Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch and a host of other businesses, including hotels…and that was just in New York City.

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.

In days gone by each pesticide had an evaluation that determined the risk of that product. FQPA changed that. All of a sudden it was decided that the risk attached to individual pesticides would not be enough. They created a “risk cup”, lumping all the pesticides in a chemical category together. Needless to say that risk cup filled up fast. They also didn’t give the manufactures enough time to develop the data they demanded. They told the manufacturers that if they didn’t get the data in the time designated time frame, then EPA would use “risk assumptions”. What did Alfonso Bedoya say in the Treasure of the Sierra Madre? "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" Well….EPA don’t need no stinking science.

Propoxur falls under this new FQPA regulated level of toxicity. We used Baygon (propoxur) for over twenty years in this nation and it was available to the general public as well. What terrible things happened? According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture; nothing terrible happened in Ohio! But when you change the rules arbitrarily you change the toxicity issues. To arbitrarily change the safety factor from one hundred to a thousand fold safety factor may not make much sense, but it makes it easy for EPA to claim that it is too toxic to use.

This brings me back to the CBS report. Marc Lame, an entomologist out of Indiana University, feels that the CBS report was “portraying Propoxur as solution denied is unbalanced and I believe, irresponsible.”

Let’s take a look at Lame’s rationale. He states “that the majority of control failures regarding bed bugs are a result of human error, poor cooperation with exterminators but more, poor technique by the exterminators." That is contemptible and misdirection! The discussion involves effective chemistry. While all of these factors may be true to some degree, these factors are meaningless if we have chemistry that works.

He then goes on to say “that bed bug control is making unqualified and unethical exterminators rich”. What is making exterminators “rich” is the fact that people like Lame promote every fallacious claim there is against pesticides, including one of his favorite ones, endocrine disruption. We would be more than happy to go back to normal treatments that are inexpensive, less labor intensive and more effective.

He derides exterminators for charging a lot of money and then promotes nonsense that is labor intensive and expensive. Then when the failure rate is high he claims we are corrupt. I know he makes a distinction between “qualified” operators versus “unqualified” operators, but the image the public will take away from that statement is that we are all incompetent and corrupt. That is contemptible!

Let me make this absolutely crystal clear…….these so-called “rich” exterminators aren’t the problem, they are the solution! However, it is my personal opinion that the real problem lies with self promoting Ph.D., EPA grant chasers!

There was a bed bug Integrated Pest Management (IPM) study done by researchers from Purdue University in 2009 using Diatomaceous Earth, hand removal, bed bug interceptors, diatomaceous earth dust, mattress encasements and hot steam, which they called (D-IPM). They also used something they called (S-IPM) using 0.5% chlorfenapyr (Phantom) which also included hand removal, mattress encasements, hot steam, but no bed bug interceptors.

This was done in a site was a 15-story apartment building located in Indianapolis,  IN. “The building had 225 one-bedroom apartments occupied by low-income elderly or disabled people. Approximately 87 apartments experienced bed bug activity since 2007. “

After all these extensive treatments, re-inspections and retreats the end result was that “By week 10, mean bed bug count reduction by D-IPM and S-IPM were 97.6 _ 1.6 and 89.7 _ 7.3%, respectively. Bed bugs were eradicated (based on visual inspections and resident interviews) from 50% of the apartments in both groups. The maximum numbers of bed bugs found in each apartment at week 10 was 4 and 32 in the D-IPM and S-IPM groups, respectively.”

In short, after weeks of treatments and inspections these extremely competent researchers failed to rid bed bugs from fifty percent of the apartments they treated. Were these people “unqualified” and “unethical”? It might be worth noting this statement from the researchers; “effective residual insecticides are needed for bed bug elimination”, and this is from people wanting to seriously reduce the use of pesticides.

Marc derides the idea that Americans want a “quick fix” and exterminators for also wanting an “easy fix”. Has he lost his mind? Of course that is what everyone wants; why wouldn’t they? I have had friends tell me that they went into people’s homes and the children were bitten so badly that if they didn’t know what the problem was they would have called Children's Services. Explain to those people why they shouldn’t want a quick fix! Explain to me why they shouldn’t have one!

As for his comments about the “myth” of the “silver bullet”, the “pesticide treadmill” and “dependence on chemical pesticides to eradicate bed bugs is folly”.  Why wouldn’t everyone want a “silver bullet”? When he discusses Dr. Miller I assume he is talking about Dini Miller, who he cites regarding comments about resistance developing to propoxur. Did someone think that we didn't already know that!   This nonsense argument about hastening resistance is the biggest red herring of them all.

Resistance is the pattern in nature. Plants have an arsenal of pesticides they naturally produce to ward off attack by insects, and they need them, because insects develop resistance to what they are using to defend themselves. When that happens they produce other chemicals insects aren't resistant to. Bacteria have developed resistance to many of the antibiotics that we are currently using, and there are some staph infections that are almost uncontrollable. Does that mean we shouldn't use those that still work because it will hasten the level of resistance? If that happened people would die. That would be considered insane! Why then would we use any logic that would be considered insane in another arena as rational in pest control? The problem isn't that resistance will develop; the problem is that unlike plants we have decision makers who create regulations that prevent use of chemistry that works. They also make decisions that make the production of new pesticides unprofitable. I might add that this is the reason new antibiotics aren’t making it to the market either, and people like Marc are enablers of this kind of thinking based on junk science. If this is truly Dini Miller’s position I certainly hope that she will re-evaluate it!

Let's stop these insane arguments about resistance. I keep coming back to this argument.  If bed bugs were transmitting some sort of deadly disease we wouldn't even be having this conversation.  We would get Dursban tomorrow and bed bugs would be gone by the end of the week.

The problem is that propoxur is all we can ask for. We would love to have Dursban or any one of the organophosphates, but that wasn’t an option….we settled for what we could possibly get and what is desperately needed. WE KNOW this is only a stop gap measure. As for his comment that a “chemical tool can be a useful part of the management strategy but historically has failed as a stand-alone method”. Marc should be ashamed of himself. That is blatantly false.

The answer in 1946 was effective, inexpensive chemistry that was available to everyone! And before we lost so many tools to FQPA we did it with chemistry alone. Let’s not kid ourselves. Bed bugs have been brought in this country for decades by international travelers. In the mid 1980’s I did my first bed bug job. Some people from mainland China was visiting a factory to see how they operated and when they left they left their bed bugs in their hotel room. I treated the room with Ficam one time… time mind you ….. and the bed bugs were gone. Let’s get this right……if effective, inexpensive chemistry that is available to everyone isn’t the answer in 2010 there will be no answer. Let me say that again….. if effective, inexpensive chemistry that is available to everyone isn’t the answer in 2010 there will be no answer.

He goes on to say “Fortunately, we now have a number of technologies which can now be integrated to manage (prevent or control) bedbugs including monitoring devices, heat treatment, vacuuming, nonchemical pesticides like diatomaceous earth (hopefully used in the future with pheromone attractants) and a few reasonably effective chemical pesticides.”

The reality is that these techniques and “reasonably effective chemical pesticides” are not working for the vast majority of people in this nation. If it was otherwise, we wouldn’t be asking for propoxur and this problem wouldn’t be expanding to the point of being a plague on the nation.  And apparently it didn’t work for him at the Monroe County Community School Corporation, where they wanted to “put out traps to see what happens”. I would like to draw everyone’s attention the Bloomington Elementary School in that system, where Lame was “was surprised to see them turn up inside the school.” How did they discover they had them? “A teacher found one of the parasites crawling on a student's jacket and soon found one crawling on another students clothing.” But there was to be no chemical treatments. Why? Their solution was to send out letters and use bed bug traps because as Lame says, “Bed bugs most often strike at night where people sleep or sit for long periods of time.” He goes on to say, "The kids are not sleeping here," Dr. Lame said. "Nobody sleeps here overnight. The bedding is not here. It's just not a nest for a nest parasite." Excuse me….but didn’t we just find out that they were moving from coat to coat. That is despicable! We absolutely know that bed bugs will live in any area they can, under carpeting, cracks and crevices, behind pictures, etc.

These self promoters propound so-called methodologies that are in reality philosophies. Philosophies that are based on the same kind of junk science Rachel Carson and the rest of the greenies spew out. When you spew out such ideologies you don’t need no stinking science.

The answer to bed bugs in 1946 was effective, inexpensive chemistry that was available to everyone.  That was the answer in 1946 and if that isn't the answer in 2010 there will be no answer! 

Comments will not be accepted that are rude, crude, stupid or smarmy. Nor will I allow ad hominem attacks or comments from anyone who is "Anonymous”, even if they are positive!



Chris Donaghy, Entomologist said...

Rich, great article that gets to a real serious point in this Nation, and that is when are the sensible people who know better going to take a real organized stand and effectively speak out against the "third world nation" mindset of our all knowing ideologues who continuously impose their fairy tale concepts and wills upon us? Third world? That is correct, and I have spoken out before where this country was headed long before the plague of the bed bugs invaded our communities and in the days where few in our industry saw "green" as a threat to public health and safety.
Junk scientist, politicians and political correctness, the liberal media, marketing geniuses and "Rachael" wanna-be's are placing American citizens in real harm’s way. Our industry, in the battle against serious public health pests, has been handcuffed in the same way our politicians make our military fight the enemy, and that is a losing proposition in the long run.
We have only scratched the surface on the pestilence and disease yet to come, and many citizens will suffer from disease, damage and death related to new invaders and those of a storied past.
Dengue fever has arrived in Florida, a deadly and serious disease known to many parts of the second and third world nations, and a disease the USA hasn't faced since 1934. Lyme Disease, and the other associated tick-borne diseases are epidemic in the US and many thousands of Americans have now become permanently disabled and non-productive citizens. West Nile is still here and quietly creating illness and death to humans as well as domestic and native wild animals. Bed bugs have the headlines now.
Is it just a coincidence that these new and old pests and their associated diseases are showing up in America? Well yes it is. The arrival of new and old pests and their related diseases coincides directly with Uncontrolled Immigration, New EPA Testing Mandates for the Pesticide Industry, The Green Movement, The Voluntary Withdraw of Safe and Effective Pesticides from the Marketplace, The Strength and Voice of the Anti-Pesticide Movement, The Sensationalism of the Media and Film Makers, The Disconnection of Politicians from Reality, The Federal Government's Yearning to become European, and the list goes on and on...
The voice of our industry has been underrepresented in this dire fight against the many who oppose us. Now we still have a fighting chance, and bed bugs have given the industry an opportunity to take up the charge and accuse and expose the Green and Anti-Pesticide Movements as the real culprits for allowing serious diseases and pests back into this country that were once effectively and safely controlled by inexpensive insecticides. Most politicians are cowards and will change their opinions on the winds of public opinion. The pest control industry can come out of this plague as the real heroes just as the pied piper did during the plague of the middle ages, but we must effectively have our opinion heard by the public without the opposing side always pulling us back to an evil, necessary and disreputable business as Marc Lame did on the CBS report.

Rich Kozlovich said...


Thanks for your comments. I couldn't agree more with your concerns about the increase of pest related afflictions in this nation. A nation that made the country and the world a safer and healthier place to live though extensive and effective use of chemistry and the potential for their increase if we continue down this insanely destructive path.

Best wishes,

Mike Weissman said...


Great article! You really summed things up in a very realistic and factual manner.


Mike Weissman
Sales Representative

Rich Kozlovich said...

Dr. Dini Miller has decided that since she is being quoted so much it is time to set the record straight and clarify her position. I wish to thank her for allowing this message to be shared with members of the Ohio Pest Management Association. Rich Kozlovich

Hello all:

In the current bed bug media firestorm I am being quoted a lot, but sometimes taken out of context. So for anyone who is repeating what I might have said about propoxur, let me set the record straight.

Do I believe that bed bugs will develop resistance to propoxur? Absolutely. I believe that the data indicates that bed bugs have developed resistance to every insecticide that has ever come into widespread used for their control (nerve toxicants). But of course, not all bed bug populations in the US will not develop resistance at once.

Do I believe that we should use propoxur in some of our most inhumane situations where elderly people are crawling with bed bug? Absolutely. I have seen some dreadful situations in the field. Are we living in Calcutta? If a single propoxur application would save these helpless elderly people from an appalling situation, I am all for it. Each of us should consider what our old age living situation will look like if the bed bug spread continues (which I think it will).

I believe that if we are worried about childrens' exposure, then we should label propoxur in such a way that it can never be used in situations where children are present. Restrict it for use in homes of people over 70. Even the poorest parents have some bed bug killing method at their disposal (manually crushing all bed bugs). The elderly do not have this option.

Do I like propoxur, or think that it will save us from bed bugs. No to both questions. I think the bed bugs are forever (I am hopeful but not optimistic) and I think the rapidity of resistance to propoxur may surprise us. But I worry about the increasing age of our population, and feel that it is wrong to base all of our concern on children's exposure to insecticides when the elderly are suffering so much from this plague.
Thanks for listening to my soapbox speech,


Dini M. Miller, Ph.D.
Department of Entomology
216A Price Hall
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-4918 office
540-231-4045 lab