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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pest Control – Back to the Future!

By Rich Kozlovich

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. - C. S. Lewis

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is outraged that we are attempting to bring propoxur back for bed bug control. He is also outraged at those who are working to do this, which also includes me by the way. I asked why?

His point is that we were going into the past and not into the future. We need to go forward! We were going backward, not forward when we do this type of thing. “Who wants to start using this stuff and then have it hanging over our heads?” I would assume that last part was based on EPA’s recent determination that propoxur was too toxic to use around children, without any real science behind it. Since EPA changed the safety factor from 100 fold to 1000 fold it makes it far easier to declare anything too toxic if they wish to, in spite of the fact that propoxur, also known as Baygon, was used by the general public for over twenty years.

He isn’t alone either. This isn’t an uncommon theme in our industry. Twenty five years ago this would have never occurred, but we have been psychologically prepared to accept this kind of thinking by a constant drumbeat of irrational environmentalism by the greenies, the Environmental Protection Agency, their acolytes in the media, and a host of owners, managers, Ph.D.’s involved with our industry and trainers that are from a different generation. They are much more easily swayed by the environmental litany.

He made it clear that he was willing to stand up in opposition against anyone attempting to bring old products back. I told him that he would then be wrong, and I will say this; anyone who agrees with him is also wrong. I know, I know…I’m right and the world is wrong! Yes…exactly!

Do we think we are going backward in progress if we resort to old technology if that old technology works versus new technology that is failing the nation? When the new technology doesn’t work, or doesn’t work well, should we cling to it with a religious passion because it’s modern and new while refusing to use what works simply because it’s old?

Thirty years ago when I first came into the pest control industry cockroaches were the number one problem in commercial accounts, especially restaurants, bars and apartments. I can honestly say that the majority of these places had roaches. What to do? I really hate being ignorant so I read everything I could get my hands on about roach control. About that time there was a great deal of talk about boric acid in the trade journals. I asked one of my bosses what he thought about it. He smiled, in that self assured way when someone is dealing with an idiot child and said; “that’s old technology” and walked away.

Well, since I was so ignorant I was prepared to try anything that might work. I used it in spite of his lack of enthusiasm and got results in accounts that had been having roach problems for a long time. Being in my early 30’s and having come off a job that required a great deal of physical work I was in great shape, and I didn’t mind crawling or climbing into anything anywhere to get the job done. I got results mostly because I was too ignorant to know any better. I just didn’t know that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be done. I went back to the future…..but I got the job done.

Some weeks later he came back from the Ohio Pest Control Association’s Summer Meeting and informed me that boric acid is all they were talking about for roach control. Why? Because it worked! It was back to the future for everyone at this company, and those who wouldn’t make the adjustment eventually left.

I also made a bunch of money selling roach work in accounts where so many others were failing to get control; at least until the synthetic pyrethroids exploded on the market. After resistance developed in these products we had roach baits that were introduced; and roach work has never been as profitable since. Once again; chemistry that worked was the answer.

Today we have a plethora of techniques and tools that can get rid of bed bugs. We have dry heat, steam heat, hand removal, traps, dusting techniques and procedures, vacuum cleaners designed for pest control and some chemistry that is only partially effective; and this is what makes the whole procedure partially effective. It is true that dry heat will kill everything in a building, but the expense is out of the reach of most Americans and there is no way of preventing a re-infestation with this program. We are in much the same situation as I was in thirty years ago with cockroaches. Not having the right chemistry was failing the nation, so we went back to the future and used boric acid. Bed bugs are spreading rapidly over the nation because current bed bug procedures aren't working for the nation, and for the same reason; we don’t have the right chemistry available.

Our job is more than a job. It is a mission. We are part of the public health service (whether they like to admit it or not) that stands between society and disaster. We are part of that thin gray line that stands on the wall and says, “no one will harm you on my watch”. If we are to succeed in our mission to protect society we must be effective in our treatments! If that means going back to old technology, then that is what we must do. It isn’t our job to be progressive, whatever that may mean, it our job to be effective!

There was a great old movie called “People Will Talk” with Cary Grant portraying a character called Dr. Noah Praetorius. He followed a relatively simple personal philosophy regarding medical treatments for the sick and suffering; “I’m in favor of using whatever makes sick people well”. One of his colleagues had him brought up before a faculty board to answer charges about his qualifications as a doctor. Dr. Praetorius answered one question my simply saying "I made sick people well”.

We need to properly define this issue. It isn’t about science, it isn’t about money; it’s about results, and it is a moral issue. By ridding properties of pest infestations we make sick buildings healthy, and I don’t care what we have to use to do it. I am prepared to use anything that makes sick buildings well! I am more than willing to go back to the future if that’s what’s necessary.

The answer to bed bugs in 1946 was effective, inexpensive chemistry that was available to everyone. If that isn’t the answer in 2010 then 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!

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