Shouldn’t be restricting pesticides then

Bed Bug Update: The Bugs Aren’t the Only Threat

By John Rennie
Posted: March 11, 2011
Adult bed bug. (Credit: Dr. Harold Harlan, Armed Forces Pest Management Board Image Library)

Two weeks ago while on an assignment, I spent a couple of awkward nights in a budget hotel. The accommodations weren’t the problem—they were plenty comfortable and clean. Rather, my worries that I might pick up bed bugs and bring them home with me kept me on edge. The mattresses and upholstery all seemed insect-free; even so, I kept my clothes packed, wrapped everything in garbage bags and set my suitcase in the bathtub overnight, just to be sure.

Chalk up my actions as neurotic overkill; I don’t disagree. The contortions I put myself through were at least short-lived. Unfortunately, people who have to live with bed bugs for a long time may be possessed by a desperate yearning to be rid of them. And desperate people do desperate, dangerous things.

The pestilent return of bed bugs throughout the U.S. (which I’ve previously discussed here and here) shows no sign of ebbing, and efficient measures for stemming their spread are not at hand. At the EPA’s Second National Bed Bug Summit held this past February, experts in public health and entomology reviewed the state of the pest control technology and the mixed results of various efforts to eliminate the bugs in different cities. (PLoS)

3 responses to “Shouldn’t be restricting pesticides then

  1. It’s richly ironic that you would reprint part of my article under the sneering headline “Shouldn’t be restricting pesticides then” when one of my major points was that unrestricted use of pesticides would rapidly make the bed bug problem worse (by burning out what little effectiveness the chemicals still have). You undermine the case for more permissive but still restricted use that I made. Nice reading comprehension, JunkScience.

    • Actually John, didn’t miss the point but chose to ignore it in favor of the much larger picture. There has long been a policy of removing/restricting/delicensing effective pesticides, particularly persistent ones and this is poor policy when you need all available weapons.

      This is not the same as letting Fred & Freda Anybody apply inappropriate garden sprays, which is the unfettered use to which you refer. (Possible semantic difficulties here since your “restricting” seems to be my “controlled” while my “restricting” refers to complete removal of availability even to licensed and trained pest controllers.)

      Read it as you will but I’m content to let the item stand as is.

      • Two different matters of control/regulation are at issue here. One, as you said, is the question of letting consumers inappropriately use garden sprays and the like in their homes, and there at least we agree that controls are important for forbidding it.

        But it would also be a mistake to leave pesticides for home use unrestricted because DDT and most of the other formerly effective compounds don’t work anymore, and in some cases haven’t worked for decades. Encouraging or allowing the use of those chemicals would only increase the level of resistance to chemicals overall, which would hurt the use of new, safer pesticides. That’s why scientific authorities don’t recommend doing it.

        My piece lays the groundwork for an argument that chemicals like propoxur might be used more than they are, but that’s not an argument against restricting them.

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