(Beyond Pesticides, April 19, 2011) On Saturday, April 16, the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously (97-0) approved a resolution sponsored by State Representative Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati) regarding bedbugs and propoxur, asking Congress to help convince the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the emergency use of the toxic pesticide. Propoxur, a neurotoxin and probable human carcinogen, has been canceled for indoor residential uses due to the unacceptable risks posed to children’s health and should not be used for indoor treatment. Resolution HR 31, however, urges the use of an emergency exemption under federal law to control bedbugs, a follow-up to an earlier request in 2010. The resolution seeks to invoke a so-called Section 18 emergency use permit , a controversial loophole in the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that allows for unregistered uses of a pesticide, and in many cases unregistered pesticides, under “emergency circumstances.”
In a letter to Administrator Lisa Jackson, dated April 19, 2010, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland supported the state’s request for the exemption claiming, “Without the use of propoxur, there is very little that can be done to meaningfully stop the spread of bed bug infestations.” Environmental and public health groups, including Beyond Pesticides, has urged EPA to deny the exemption.
In comments to EPA last December, Beyond Pesticides stated that indoor uses of propoxur increase exposure and health risks of residents, especially children who are vulnerable. Beyond Pesticides also reminded the agency that propoxur should not be considered for a Section 18 exemption since the pesticide was already canceled for indoor uses that expose children, and that the treatment of bed bugs is now routine, and cannot be considered an “emergency” as defined under FIFRA.
EPA has refused the state of Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption to use the restricted pesticide propoxur in residential settings for control of bed bugs, stating that the chemical “presents unreasonable risk.”
Recently, Rep. Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican member of Congress and a mmber of the House Agriculture Committee -which has jurisdiction over pesticide registration law, introduced an earmarked bill a few weeks ago to establish a government panel and grants for chemical product research. The bill requires taxpayers to pay for the research of new chemicals to manage bedbugs. Rep Schmidt’s bill, H.R. 967, the Bed Bug Management, Prevention and Research Act of 2011 is hailed by the pest control industry because it will push for expedited use of chemicals in the fight against bedbugs just as many in the industry are shifting to integrated pest management (IPM) practices that focus on non-chemical methods utilizing pest exclusion techniques, steam treatment, and other non-toxic methods.
While bed bug populations have rebounded in recent years, due to growing resistance to widely used insecticides, relying on even more toxic chemical control is not a feasible option. Currently, EPA and other stakeholders are working to develop new methods of combating the surge in bed bug infestations, including increasing the role of integrated pest management (IPM), which, according to the agency in its letter, “is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that considers pest life cycles and relies on a combination of common-sense chemical and non-chemical solutions.”
Propoxur is a carbamate insecticide first registered in the U.S. in 1963 for the control of household pests, such as ants, cockroaches, and bed bugs. It is also commonly used in flea and tick collars. Propoxur can be very dangerous to humans and the environment. Common symptoms of poisoning include malaise, muscle weakness, dizziness, and sweating. Headache, nausea, and diarrhea may also result. EPA considers propoxur a possible human carcinogen, while the state of California classifies it as a known human carcinogen. Propoxur is also highly toxic to beneficial insects such as honeybees as well as crustaceans, fish, and aquatic insects.
Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati are among many cities in the U.S., as well as cities worldwide, that saw a recent surge in bed bug infestations. According to a survey of pest control firms bed bug outbreaks have tripled since 2005. Infestations commonly occur in homeless shelters, and low income housing, as well as hospitals, college dorms, and hotels. Bed bugs are tiny insects up to ¼ inches when full grown that usually live in cracks and crevices of bed frames and the seams of mattresses. Their bites result in sore spots or itchy welts usually found in a line, but bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases.
Fortunately, the chemical treatments, which are often more harmful than the bed bugs themselves, are not actually necessary. These pests can be effectively controlled with non-toxic approaches. An IPM approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat, can control an infestation without the dangerous side effects. This approach, as well as taking steps such as sealing cracks and crevices, reducing clutter and encasing mattresses, can also help to prevent an infestation in the first place.
For more information on treating bedbugs, read our factsheet, “Got Bed Bugs? Don’t Panic” on our Bed Bug Program Page.
A vote by the house of 97-0 in favor indicates, that if you live in Ohio, you should express your dissatisfaction with your elected representative.
Source: The Cincinnati Herald