The Environmental Protection Agency has unfortunately denied the State of Ohio’s emergency Section 18 label exemption request for propoxur.
According to the EPA’s Notice of the request, the exemption would have allowed for three products containing propoxur to
. . . be applied as a crack and crevice or spot treatment to indoor residential single or multiple unit dwellings, apartments, hotels, motels, office buildings, modes of transportation, and commercial industrial buildings.
According to an article in the January 2010 issue of PCT, the Section 18 request was made because of the prevalence of bed bugs in the state, the difficulty in treating bed bugs, including the problem of pesticide resistance, and also because people who are living with persistent infestations are doing dangerous things to try and get rid of their bed bugs.
I managed to obtain a copy of a letter sent by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, on June 2, 2010, which outlines the reasons for the denial of the request.
Jackson notes that “the results of the risk assessment do not support the necessary safety findings as required by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).”
She cites concerns about the dangers of nervous system effects in children who spend time in rooms recently treated with propoxur, particularly risks of exposure due to inhalation and those arising from hand-to-mouth behaviors typical of children.
Jackson also emphasizes the agency’s ongoing concerns about bed bugs (as evidenced by the recent addition of the EPA’s recently launched bed bugs website and their hosting of the National Bed Bug Summit in April 2009), as well as their continued interest in research into IPM techniques, heat and cold treatments, and exclusionary techniques (such as encasements for mattresses). The letter also notes that the EPA will also soon be offering $550,000 in grants to state and tribal agencies for pilot projects relating to outreach and education.
I am, of course, concerned about the dangers of pesticides, but I also know that people with no pesticide experience can cause plenty of damage to themselves and others with products currently available. And since the products available are limited in effectiveness, the problem of bed bugs is spreading at an alarming rate.
Therefore, I was among those who hoped the propoxur exemption would go through for Ohio, and allow licensed professionals to apply this product in a controlled manner (minimizing risk), and hopefully let them gain some control over the bed bug situation in Ohio. I even dared to hope that this exemption might be requested by and extended to other states with a serious bed bug crisis on their hands.
Although I am a big fan of other methods for treating bed bugs, it remains so that heat treatments, for example, are often beyond the means of those on fixed incomes, and they are not always available even to those who can pay. I hope that the EPA will work to find other low-cost and effective solutions for the bed bug crisis.
The people of Ohio, like bed bug sufferers everywhere, really need help.