Economic Consequences of Bed Bugs and EPA Policy

The greens and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have dismissed the nation’s bed bug problem as a nuisance because the critters don’t transmit diseases as they feed on humans while they sleep. Accordingly, they think it’s fine to continue using government regulations to limit access to pesticide products that could help solve the problem.

Jackson might not think itchy welts or the stress associated with being eaten by bugs at night don’t pose problems, but what about the economic effects on hotels and businesses struggling with these pests? The Connecticut legislature is actually considering a bill that would require hotels to disclose whether they have ever had bed bugs before — a move that will simply chase away business. Consumers can already check the privately run bed bug registry online. Trip Advisor also includes notes by hotel guests. Asking hotels to do such disclosure directly is absurd. It sounds like a fair consumer right-to-know bill, but in reality it doesn’t solve a thing. Instead, it will harm good businesses that may have done everything possible to control such problems.

The real solution lies involves reevaluating the nation’s pesticide laws. During the past several decades, EPA has been banning  many products based on scientifically questionable claims about the risks. This all started with the ban on DDT — the product that once eliminated bed bugs in the United States — in 1970. And the pace of government bans has grown since Congress passed a “reform” to the nation’s pesticide laws — the Food Quality Protection Act. With so many products banned and reduced innovation, we are experiencing a resurgence of pest-related problems.

Unfortunately, rather than address problems advanced by foolish pesticide policies — such as the bed bug epidemic — federal lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are considering using the FQPA as a model for “reforming” another federal chemical law — the Toxic Substances Control Act. If they succeed, we can expect more problems in the future as EPA uses the law to limit access to a host of other valuable products.