The call for DDT keeps coming, despite scientific evidence suggesting it is not the solution to the current bed bug crisis.
Growing infestations of the ravenous bloodsuckers have New Yorkers annoyed, angry about officialdom’s inadequate responses — and “itching” for answers.
Instead, their Bedbug Advisory Board recommends a bedbug team and an educational Web site.
Dreissen insists that, instead,
New Yorkers want real solutions, including affordable insecticides that work.
There’s been a lot of grumbling about the idea of an educational website (New York City’s to-be-created Bed Bug Portal). Some people seem to think the need isn’t there.
I am not sure the problem in New York comes down to the lack of methods which work. Heat works — better than pesticides. And a combination of steam, pesticide sprays, and dusts can also work well.
However, affordability and availability of effective treatment is a problem. In New York, many folks needing bed bug treatment are getting second-rate treatment which is not consistent or aggressive enough to solve their bed bug problems.
Untreated neighbors, uninformed pest control professionals, landlords who take action too slowly or do not order inspections of adjoining units and prompt follow-up treatments — these problems all suggest a need for affordable treatment, as well as a need for more widespread education about bed bugs and how to treat them effectively.
Driessen argues instead in favor of bringing back DDT to fight bed bugs in the US, an approach which suggests, again, that the need for an educational campaign about bed bugs is great.
Those who know more about DDT and bed bugs know that this pest began to show resistance to DDT in the late 1940s. By the mid-1950s, the National Pest Control Association was recommending malathion as an alternative pesticide. Note: bed bugs also later developed resistance to malathion. (More on the history in this August 2008 PCT article from Michael Potter, some of which is commented on here.)
And let’s not forget that the BBC said in 2001 that recent applications of DDT to fight malarial mosquitoes in Africa caused bed bugs to become more active there.
That does not sound like the DDT mid-century American housewives knew and loved. The DDT they wanted to use to decorate a child’s room.
In fact, due to insecticide resistance, you might say it isn’t the same DDT at all.
Driessen says that
We need adult supervision and informed debate on pesticide policies, laws and regulations. We can no longer leave those decisions to anti-chemical activists in unaccountable pressure groups and government agencies. These zealots are making decisions that affect the quality of life for millions of Americans — and life itself for billions of poor people worldwide.
If not for the economy and mental health of Americans afflicted by bedbugs, then do it for Africa’s sick, brain-damaged and dying parents and children.
Yes, let’s have an informed debate.
There is an argument to be made for the serious reconsideration of pesticide policies which may affect our ability to fight bed bugs. We might consider bringing back pesticides which work in fighting bed bugs, and we might revisit Ohio’s failed request to the EPA for a Section 18 public health exemption which would allow Propoxur to be used under specific conditions to fight bed bugs.
Far from being what Driessen calls an “anti-chemical activist,” I was in favor of Ohio’s request, and disappointed in the outcome.
However, the rationale for bringing back DDT to fight bed bugs is just not there. The bottom line is that — leaving aside any environmental or health concerns — evidence suggests DDT would not be a silver bullet for bed bugs if it was brought back today.
As for malarial mosquitoes, I am not personally able to assess whether DDT is the best solution at this time.
I do know that you can’t conflate bed bugs with mosquitoes. They’re different pests which do different kinds of damage, and which may be affected differently by DDT.