Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

EPA Warns of Unsafe, Scam Bed Bug Exterminators

It is an all too common theme, mentioned here and many other places. An event, tragedy or even a trend occurs and the scams or fakes follow like ants after a picnic. In this case, the bug analogy is apropos, because the issue at hand is bed bugs. As noted in posts on FindLaw's Injured blog, the recent resurgence in bed bug infestations has occurred all over the country, but has made news especially in New York and other large cities. Now, the EPA warns the public of problems relating to the removal and extermination of the pests.

The EPA concerns are two-fold, according to a report by the Associated Press from Ohio. First are the extermination companies making unrealistic or false promises of extermination, or using the wrong or dangerous chemicals in an attempt to exterminate the bugs. As an example, the AP cites one case of an unlicensed exterminator who sprayed an apartment complex in Cincinnati with a pesticide typically used on golf courses. Seven tenants became ill and required hospitalization. The property had to be quarantined, and the tenants forced to move. Criminal charges may result.

One reason for the largest resurgence of bed bug infestations in nearly 50 years, reports the AP, is the lack of DDT. That chemical was responsible for keeping the bugs under control in the 40s and 50s, but was banned in the 1970's after its toxic effects were made clear in the 60's by such information like that found in Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring.

One pesticide in limited use is propoxur. This chemical can be found in such items as flea collars, but is banned for home use due to effects on children such as dizziness, nausea and blurred vision. The AP reports that some pest control experts believe it is a superior pesticide for use on bed bug infestations and can be used in a way that could protect children. However, the EPA warns would-be users about its safety. Other experts worry whether it will be effective in the long run. "Propoxur is not a silver bullet, and given time, bedbugs would likely become resistant to it, too," Lyn Garling, an entomologist at Penn State University told the AP.

In the meantime, it will take a major public health campaign to address the problem nation-wide. To help prevent a bed bug infestation some suggestions include: hang clothing in the closet farthest from the bed, place luggage on the folding rack found in most hotels, place luggage in the dry cleaning bag found in the hotel, most important, don't bring home a mattress that has been used by unknown sources.

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