The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to alert consumers that there has been an increase of individuals or companies who offer to control bedbugs with unrealistic promises of effectiveness or low cost.
This is an important point. Bed bug treatment requires knowledge and skill as well as a killing agent (such as pesticides, dust, heat, or gas fumigant).
Don’t fall for unrealistic promises like “this is the chemical you need.” When it comes to pesticides, legal or not, there is currently no magic bullet for bed bugs.
The Consumer Alert specifically warns against the use of pesticides labeled for outdoor use inside the home to treat bed bugs. We have heard reports of people using propoxur, which is not labeled to be used indoors or to treat bed bugs. Although I was disappointed the EPA did not grant a Section 18 exemption to Ohio so that licensed pest professionals could apply propoxur appropriately and safely with specific limitations, I don’t think it is a smart or safe idea for individuals to experiment with this pesticide or others not labeled for treating bed bugs.
As the Consumer Alert notes,
Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bedbugs can make you, your family, and your pets sick. It can also make your home unsafe to live in – and may not solve the bedbug problem.
If consumers are going to apply pesticides, the EPA offers the following helpful reminders:
• Before using any pesticide product, READ THE LABEL FIRST, then follow the directions for use
• Check the product label to make sure it is identified for use on bedbugs. If bedbugs are not listed on the label, the pesticide has not been tested for bedbugs and it may not be effective
• Any pesticide product label without an EPA registration number has not been reviewed by EPA to determine how well the product works
• Make sure that the pesticide has been approved for indoor use
The EPA also wants to reassure us they’re on the case, presumably in response to the prominent role bed bugs have had in the news lately.
Besides hosting a bedbug summit in April 2009, the EPA notes it has recently:
• Issued a joint statement from CDC and EPA to highlight the public health impacts of bedbugs,
• Identified currently registered pesticides that may be effective against bedbugs and is working with the Agricultural Research Service to test the pesticides for efficacy in their labs
• Begun coordinating programs for IPM techniques to address bedbugs
• Facilitated information exchange between the federal agencies to promote efficient, effective use of resources
See the EPA’s Bed Bugs page with a new “Bed Bug Pesticide Alert” added.
More on the CDC-EPA Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control in the United States.
Also see this post on Senator Chuck Schumer’s recent letter to the EPA, HUD, and HHS requesting an interagency bed bug task force
Update (8/12): Wednesday’s New York Times Green blog did a story on the EPA warning, citing Michael Potter on the potential ineffectiveness and dangers of do-it-yourself bed bug treatment:
“When people become increasingly desperate, they start doing these kinds of things,” said Michael F. Potter, an entomologist and bedbug expert at the University of Kentucky. “It’s a concern.”
Other dubious do-it-yourself solutions include the heavy application within the home of products like bleach, ammonia, kerosene and alcohol, and the intensive use of “bug bombs,” wasp sprays and other conventional insecticides not specifically designed to kill bedbugs. These methods are not only ineffective but can pose a fire hazard.
“What’s the harm in this? Some of this stuff is highly flammable,” Dr. Potter said. “You can burn your house down.”