Did the EPA create the bedbug revival?

posted at 10:55 am on August 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

If it seems as though bedbugs come from another era, it’s because they generally do.  In the US, the parasitic creatures had all but disappeared, thanks to pesticide applications after World War II.  However, the EPA has banned the most effective pesticides that deal with bedbugs, and according to the Daily Caller, the approved list mainly stuns them into two-week stupors rather than eradicating them:

Around when bed bugs started their resurgence, Congress passed a major pesticides law in 1996 and the Clinton EPA banned several classes of chemicals that had been effective bed bug killers.

The debate isn’t over long-banned DDT, since modern bed bugs have developed a tolerance for that chemical. But in the pre-1996 regime, experts say, bed bugs were “collateral damage” from broader and more aggressive use of now-banned pesticides like Malathion and Propoxur.

Now some health officials are clamoring to bring those chemicals back to help solve the bed bug “emergency.” Meanwhile, EPA bureaucrats have downplayed the idea and environmentalists are pushing hard against the effort, citing safety concerns.

The issue has led to a standoff between Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, and EPA chief Lisa Jackson, who shot down Strickland’s appeals over the issue in a tersely worded letter in June.

The Jackson response rises to the level of bureaucratic art.  Strickland’s state has become one of the main battlegrounds against bedbugs, and children are particularly vulnerable.  Rather than issue a limited waiver for the use of Propoxur to eradicate the parasites, Jackson denies it on the basis of its impact on children — as though the application couldn’t be mitigated with proper access control and training.  Instead of allowing Ohio to use an effective eradication agent, Jackson offers $550,000 in “community outreach” funds, saying — I kid you not — “education and outreach are key components to bed bug control on a community-wide basis.”

Who knew education and outreach could be so toxic?  Those bedbugs should be shaking in, er, our beds.

Instead, the EPA only allows a few weak-tea pesticides to be used in battling the bedbugs.  For Star Trek fans, think of it as attempting to fight with phasers set to stun:

According to research at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, academic headquarters for studying the six-legged beast, some strands of bed bugs can survive, zombie-like, for up to 16 days after being directly sprayed with currently used pesticides.

If you consider that in most instances insects are intended to die shortly after coming into brief contact with pesticide residue, that’s pretty dramatic.

It’s not just dramatic, it creates a repeating problem.  Using approved pesticides will likely bring immediate relief from the problem, but that relief is a mere deception.  Once the effects wear off, the same bugs will become active again within two weeks, recreating the problem all over again, and forcing victims to pay over and over again for applications of useless pesticides rather than solving the problem the first time with a pesticide that works.

It’s yet another demonstration of clueless government bureaucracy, unwilling to understand the needs of its citizens.  We don’t need to let the bedbugs bite when we have the means necessary to eradicate them.


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