Outgoing Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland says EPA’s response for help in the state’s battle against bed bugs is simply “not enough.” He petitioned the agency to approve an emergency, indoor use of the pesticide Propoxur. But the agency will only allow a one-time application in the state’s senior-citizen residential centers. In Today’s Columbus Dispatch, Strickland says EPA’s plan would “inadequately treat one small extension of the problem rather than the root.”
The product is acutely toxic to people who use it improperly, but it has no reported carcinogenic effects. According to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the agency won’t allow its use indoor because the possibility of adverse effects on children. She suggests that bedbugs are a serious “problem” and a “nuisance” but that the chemical might amount to “a cure that’s actually worse than the disease.”
She dismisses the likelihood that Propoxur could provide more benefits than risks. “If used wisely and against the right kind of pest, then I think it [Propoxur] will probably offer far more benefit than risk,” bedbug expert Dr. Richard Pollack of the Harvard School of Public Health told The New York Times in 2009.
However, if Jackson really wants to protect kids from toxicity and the “nuisance” of bedbugs, she should approve limited, home-use of the pesticide DDT. It helped eradicate bedbugs in the United States during the 20th century, but they returned a few decades after the EPA banned DDT.
Despite hype to the contrary, DDT is extremely safe for humans. In 1990, the Lancet reported: “The early toxicological information on DDT was reassuring; it seemed that acute risks to health were small. If the huge amounts of DDT used are taken into account, the safety record for human beings is extremely good. In the 1940s many people were deliberately exposed to high concentrations of DDT thorough dusting programmes or impregnation of clothes, without any apparent ill effect.”
But the greens’ campaign against chemicals doesn’t allow for rational approaches. Greens won’t even support DDT use to control malaria’s deadly toll around the world — allowing millions of children to die annually.
The impact such extremism is now being felt in the United States, with bedbugs just one problem. In 1992, a National Academy of Sciences report warned: “A growing problem in controlling vector-borne diseases is the diminishing supply of effective pesticides … Some manufacturers have chosen not to reregister their products because of the expenses of gathering safety data [under EPA regulations]. Partly as a result, many effective pesticides over the past 40 years to control agricultural pests and vectors of human disease are no longer available.” It looks like we may all soon have bedbugs in our homes and possibly many more dangerous pests to control.