Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Needless, Nationwide Bed Bug Epidemic

By Alan Caruba

There really is no mystery to solving the nationwide bed bug epidemic. In 1946 the solution was DDT. Today the solution could still be DDT if it hadn’t been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s and, since then, any number of other beneficial pesticides.

I know something about this because, as a public relations counselor I have worked with pesticide manufacturers in the past and elements of the pest control industry today.

The problem isn’t so much the bed bugs as the brainwashing of Americans to believe that pesticides are worse than the pests. One of the reasons Americans live in an essentially pest-free environment in their homes, offices, restaurants, hotels, and elsewhere is the widespread use of pesticides, despite decades of effort by environmental organizations to spread and maintain an irrational fear of pesticides.

In the years following World War Two, the pest control industry had eliminated bed bugs to a point where today’s generation of pest control professionals literally had no experience dealing with them when they began to reappear in American homes, hotels, and other structures.

What is the Environmental Protection Agency’s answer? It is to hold bed bug “summits” in which industry and other experts testify to the obvious necessity to authorize the use of existing pesticides and expedite the registration of new formulations to rid the nation of this pest.

Today there is only one pesticide, Propoxur, known to effectively knock down a bed bug infestation, but when Ohio pest control professionals asked the Environmental Protection Agency for permission to use it, it was denied.

In December, Forbes magazine had an article, “America’s Most Bed Bug-Infested Cities.” Is it any surprise that three of Ohio’s cities, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton, were identified as the most infested?

Among the other cities cited as suffering major bed bug infestations were New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

A January 11th article in The Wall Street Journal, “City’s Problems with Bedbugs Getting Itchier” reported a seven percent increase in complaints about bed bugs. “Nationally,” the article noted, “one out of five Americans has had a bedbug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered the pests at home or in a hotel, according to the National Pest Management Association.”

The bed bug epidemic owes more to governmental regulation than to the experience and expertise of pest control professionals, all of whom must be licensed and certified by their respective States. Given the pesticides to address the epidemic, the industry could eliminate it.

It is shameful that America has to endure this epidemic, not just in terms of the physical harm that people encounter from it, but because it is entirely preventable. We are fortunate that bed bugs do not spread disease, despite the discomfort of their bites.

The last EPA bed bug summit heard 34 suggestions that would expand the bureaucracy at every level of government and expand training and licensure requirements. The answer is not more bureaucracy, but less. Not more paperwork, but the application of existing and new pesticides to rid America of the bed bugs.

The answer is more realism, less fear-mongering about pesticides, and the removal of regulatory barriers so that the pest control industry nationwide can do what it does best, eliminate bed bugs and other insect pests that spread disease and destroy property.

© Alan Caruba, 2011

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