Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sub-Prime Pest Control

By Rich Kozlovich

For all the years that I have been in pest control I have had to defend what we do, how we do it, and the products we use. Okay, so what? Am I any different than anyone else in pest control? If you had asked me that question 27 years ago I could have emphatically said NO! That was a time when we all came from the same paradigm! Do we today? Well now, that is a different story. Let's talk about that!

Ohio’s pest control industry has had the good fortune of always having had a few good leaders with a clear vision as to what the industry needs. Not just for what is good for them, or for merely what is good in the here and now, but a vision that goes beyond the horizon! The creation of what became the National Pest Management Association is one such example. Ohio’s pest controllers were among the first national leaders that formed what eventually became the National Pest Management Association. This is probably why Ohio pest controllers have been so involved over the years. They were there early and have remained involved through the generations ever since. Another reason is that Ohio pest controllers are passionate about our industry and the issues that face us. As new people came into the industry that passion became infectious to those who are now two, three and four generation pest controllers. People who weren’t around in the early days, but who were no less willing to reached out and carry the standard of their fallen comrades and predecessors.

In 1933 The Society of Exterminators and Fumigators of New York City elected Bill Buettner. They realized the need for a national association. In that same year The Associated Exterminators and Fumigators of the United States with executive offices in the Old Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland Ohio agreed to have a convention in Cleveland to make a very real attempt to form a national association. There clearly wasn’t room for two national associations and in October of that year the associated Ohio group endorsed the New York group and formed what eventually became the National Pest Control Association. Ohio and New York pest controllers brought this industry together because of the vision of a few good men. There is no doubt that Bill Buettner, the first president of the national association, cast a giant shadow, but that was because he was standing on the shoulders of giants who were willing to put the own interests aside for the good of an entire industry.

Both of the trade journals that service our industry are here in Cleveland. Pest Management Professional was first known as “The Exterminator’s Log”, and originally founded by one of the real leaders of the industry, Al Cossetta. Mr. Cossetta was born in 1896 in Naples, Italy. He was an immigrant whose impact on our industry is still felt today. Although he wasn’t an Ohioan, he inspired many in Ohio’s pest control industry. In order to fully appreciate what he accomplished you have to read his story. The Exterminators Log was later called “Pests and Their Control” and in 1949 the publication moved to Cleveland, Ohio. That magazine became best known as Pest Control magazine and is now called Pest Management Professional (PMP).

Pest Control Technology (PCT) however was an Ohio creation from day one. Now located in Cleveland, PCT was originally founded in Cincinnati, Ohio by the Scherzinger family and has always been called by that name.

Those in leadership positions in modern pest control have the good fortune of having had such men lead the way, and those currently in leadership roles are now standing on the shoulders of all of the giants who passed before. But are our leaders going to be casting a giant shadow that we can take shelter under, or is it a shadow that we must flee. Will that shadow cool and comfort us, or will that shadow bring dread and devastation?

Have we completely wandered into the fever swamps of “green” pest control? Just because it is the conventional wisdom doesn’t mean it is right! Conventional wisdom may be nothing more that the philosophical flavor of the day and may not last as long as the current ladies fashion. And worse yet, it may leave devastation in its wake. Conventional wisdom has yet to do what traditional wisdom has done, and that is having stood the test of time.

Those who are the strongest drivers of IPM or “green” pest control are anti-pesticide activists, government bureaucrats, along with universities and Ph.D’s, who are now bound at the hip with these people because of grant money. This drive for political correctness in pest control may be compared to a very similar situation. The current mortgage crisis! I know that may sound irrational, but let’s look at what really happened in order to see the similarities.

The Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis!

In 1977 the media discovered the word “redlining” and they used it like a whip. Redlining was supposed to be a racist action by the banks who wanted to prevent poor people and minorities, primarily black, from owning houses. Sounds insane doesn’t it? It is! Especially when a study came out showing that there was no redlining, that in fact these people were denied these loans because they were bad credit risks.

Yet redlining is what they had everyone believing, so in 1977 Congress, under the Carter administration, demanded that lending institutions pay attention to the “credit need” of the community and not on their ability to repay the loan and passing the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. Under this act the banks would be graded on how many of these bad loans they gave out. If they did business in this manner they received a high score. The score was directly proportionate to how easy it was to do a merger or an acquisition or even open a new branch and as I understand it…their ability to borrow money from the government. All of which the government controlled! Under this act if some community activists, like the group ACORN, didn’t like the way you did business could cause all sorts of problems.
Stan J. Liebowitz, economics professor at the University of Texas at Dallas writes; "Home mortgages have been a political piƱata for many decades. Greedy lenders aren’t the real reason for this mess. “In a nutshell, Liebowitz contends that the federal government over the last 20 years pushed the mortgage industry so hard to get minority homeownership up, that it undermined the country's financial foundation to achieve its goal."
Everyone was happy; everyone basked in the blaze of self congratulations. All of these bad loans were now declared to be “innovation lending” and they were praised by the regulators, academics and activists and because so much pressure was put on the lending institutions in the 90’s by the Clinton administration homeownership among minorities surged. The media called this “one of the hidden success stories” of that administration. At one point the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is supposed to have “produced a manual in the early '90s that warned mortgage lenders were to no longer deny urban and lower-income minority applicants on such "outdated" criteria as credit history, down payment or employment income.”

It was a real catch-22. If they continued giving out these bad loans, they would go out of business. If they didn’t comply there were real financial penalties and if they raised interested rates they were accused of “predatory lending”.

Unfortunately this was undermining an entire economic system and the inevitable happened.
Jeff Jacoby notes;“Trapped in a no-win situation entirely of the government's making, lenders could only hope that home prices would continue to rise, staving off the inevitable collapse. But once the housing bubble burst, there was no escape. Mortgage lenders have been bankrupted, thousands of subprime homeowners have been foreclosed on, and countless would-be borrowers can no longer get credit. The financial fallout has hurt investors around the world. And all of it thanks to the government, which was sure it understood the credit industry better than the free market did, and confidently created the conditions that made disaster unavoidable.”
The Sub-Prime Pest Control Crisis!

In 1972 the EPA was created as a result of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring with all of its flawed science, misrepresented information and predictions that proved ridiculous. Yet everyone believed then, and millions still believe the mother of junk science, and as a result regulators have imposed layer after layer of regulations, putting “community activists” in a position to cause untold trouble.

In pest control we are under attack from the “media” the “community activists”, the “academics” and the “regulators”. We are told we are treating people unfairly because what we are doing is causing terrible health problems in society and in nature, therefore we have to change. We are told that we much adopt IPM or green pest control. We are told that we will be rewarded for abandoning what has worked for what is politically correct. We are told we will be punished if we don’t. Does it sound familiar yet?

We are told that they know best. We have those who are basking in the radiance of self congratulations when they are praised and given awards from government agencies for adopting IPM or for abandoning traditional pest control methods. They call themselves “global problem solvers” and speak with an air of moral self righteousness. Unfortunately this is undermining one of the best public health service systems in the world.

At this point the similarities end. Why? Because the disaster that abandoning pesticides will undoubtedly cause hasn’t struck yet! We haven’t had our equivalent of a “housing bubble burst” yet. However, just as the pressures by government regulators mounted over time, demanding more and more irrational behavior from the lending institutions, the same thing is happening and will continue to happen in pest control. But if we continue with this sub-prime pest control mentality, which we have so cleverly masked by calling it IMP or green pest control, we can surely expect it.

Knowledgeable pest controllers have, with a great deal of work and dedication, traditionally stood against this foolishness with great success. However, in spite of the facts, in spite of the real science, they find themselves standing alone more and more, except for a handful of equally dedicated individuals around the country. It is unfortunate that we have so many in our own ranks who are adopting these philosophies. What happens when there are no more courageous pest controllers who are willing to reach out and grasp a falling standard out of a fallen comrade’s hand? Who will speak up then? More importantly, who will do the “bailing out” when our public health crisis occurs? I am no longer sure who will fix it. I used to think that we would, but I am no longer sure of that. We no longer think alike.


  1. Rick, I think you are dead wrong.
    Blasting those who seek to prevent environmental damage takes us back decades. I don't know why you bring up the issue of redlining. It really sounds like you are attached to an all-out right wing agenda, ranting about the change for the positive that America has experienced. Do you want to go back to gas guzzling polluting cars and free reign for smokers. I like to breath clean air and I never enjoyed the awful smell of cigarettes on my clothing.
    Anyway, getting back to pest control, I have a pest control company in southern California, Hearts Pest Management (, that is EcoWise Certified. We are very proud of this designation. We have been proud to help PCOC and NPMA move forward with green pest control alternatives. This movement is more a mentality than a dictate about how to do pest control. I have seen plenty of over application, needless applications and sloppy applications of pesticide that endangers people. The new green approach simply provides a balance to an industry and frankly the average citizen that without conscience dispensed pesticides in a manner that endangered our waterways and airways. You know it, so don't deny it!

  2. Rick, thank you for reposting my comment in its' original form.

    If you are going to the NPMA convention, I would be happy to discuss these issues more with you.

    Here are just a few examples I have experienced:
    My very first exposure in the industry was with a man who came to my house to do a gopher fumigation in our back yard. He did not have a license to do landscape gopher work! As things turned out, I bought the company from him. I didn't realize the remifications of the practices of the former owner until I tried to expand the business and the former owner told me I couldn't report my chemical usage to the state because our gopher applications were not approved! To solve the problem I had to hire a landscape operator until I got my own landscape operator license.

    Another example was finding Delta-Dust totally engulfing a kitchen countertop.
    I hear of technicians who use Termidor to treat bees. The EPA has mounds of documented evidence of pesticides in our water and evidence that it is killing off marine life. It is a known fact on our chemical labels that most pesticides are highly toxic to aquatic life. There is so much that can and is reported.

    We really should do our best to get on board with the environmental movement. As I mentioned, Hearts Pest Management is an EcoWise Certified company and there is nothing in our certification that states we can not use pesticides. No reasonable government will ever elliminate the use of pesticides as it could lead to uncontrollable epidemics, but we who use pesticides should be concerned about using them in a way that develops resistance in insect species, such as we have now with cockroaches.

  3. Especially when a study came out showing that there was no redlining, that in fact these people were denied these loans because they were bad credit risks.

    What study was that? Can you tell me who wrote it, and where I can find a copy?