EPA Pesticide Database Tries to Take the Bite Out of Bed Bugs

I just got back from the National Safety Council’s Congress and Expo in San Diego – and am pleased to report that it was a bed bug free trip. Of course, these days, that is cause for celebration. Another reason to celebrate are the EPA’s new Bed Bug Pesticide Database, and Bed Bug Information Page, but more on those in a moment.

Remember when going to a nice hotel was something to look forward to? Now, in my book, every hotel is guilty until proven innocent. My system for bed bug searching starts with placing my suitcase in the bathroom (the spot most experts suggest you place your luggage these days) while I search the area. I look first at the ceiling around the parameter of the room for any bugs, blood spots or dried carcasses, next I do a careful examination of the mattress and bedding. (I like to rip the sheets back quickly to see if I can catch any scurrying away. Finally, I remove the headboard, if possible, and look under and around nearby furniture, paying close attention to recessed screw holes.

My wife used to laugh at me when I started doing these searches several years ago – however, she now considers it one of the perks of our marriage, especially considering what the consequences of an infestation would be.

Several years ago, moths found a bag of bird seed we’d accidentally left in a closet, and then they quickly spread out to several rooms in our house ruining a good amount of linen and clothing. My wife went mid-evil on those moths. I didn’t know that much laundry, vacuuming, and cleaning could be done in so short amount of time. Then there was the time our daughter’s best friend got lice. Even though there was no sign of lice or nits in our daughter’s hair, my wife tied plastic bags over our Listerine soaked hair for two hours every night for a week.

Heaven help the bed bug that enters our home. No, heaven help me and my daughter. The extremes to which my wife will go to eradicate the pest, I’m afraid, are beyond anything we’ve previously experienced. I’m sure her thoughts would quickly turn to DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethaneor) or Propoxur, both of which the EPA has concerns about due to risks of health effects and damage to the environment. Let's hope my wife is never pushed that far.

From 3dchem.com’s page on DDT, we learn that DDT was the first chlorinated organic insecticide. And even though it was originally prepared in 1873, it was not used as an insecticide until 1939. It was used extensively in World War II and proved quite successful against malaria spreading mosquitoes and typhus carrying lice; however, DDT was toxic to fish and did not break down quickly in animal fat – meaning it built up along the food chain and was banned in the U.S. in 1972.

Still, it was largely because of DDT’s widespread use in the 40’s and 50’s that bed bugs were mostly eradicated from the U.S. Today, people, looking for an effective solution to their bed bug problem are calling for its redeployment in the battle against the blood sucking vermin.

The EPA is so concerned about the lengths to which people, like my wife, will go to rid their homes and workplaces of bed bugs that they have launched a new Bed Bug Information Page and Bed Bug Pesticide Database with information on over 300 EPA approved pesticides. The database is an attempt to help a desperate public find relief while minimizing the residual problems the pesticide use will create.

Visitors to the database can search for information on pesticides by name, ingredient, or how you would like to use the product, i.e. mattress, whole room, whole home, crack or surface. It also provides tips and warning to consumers, such as:

  • Never use a pesticide indoors that is intended for outdoor use.
  • Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bed bugs can make you sick, may not solve the problem, and could even make it worse by causing the bed bugs to hide where the pesticide won’t reach them.
  • Keep in mind that any pesticide product without an EPA registration number has not been reviewed by EPA, so we haven’t determined how well the product works.

On the information page, visitors can learn more about:

For an interesting Q&A on bed bugs with Dini M. Miller, Ph.D. from Virginia Tech's Department of Entomology, check out msnbc.msn.com. In it, Dr. Miller  talks about the pesticide marketplace,

“All pesticides that are labeled for use in the United States have to be registered by the EPA.  To get an EPA registration, the pesticide product has to be thoroughly tested for acute and chronic effects on mammals (laboratory rats and dogs), the potential effects on birds, fish, and honeybees has to be documented, and the environmental fate (half-life) of these products in water or soil also must be quantified.  The cost of having a product registered is now estimated to be around $ 100 million.”

According to Dr. Miller, that $100 million number is a big obstacle to new products entering the marketplace. Of course, given the state of all things bed bug related these days, $100 million might not be a bad investment to capitalize on the growing fear and frustration. A number of companies and websites have popped up dedicated to the issue, like bedbugger.com and The Bedbug Registry – a website that tracks reports of bed bugs in hotels.

I didn’t know about the registry before my trip to San Diego; nevertheless, out of curiosity, I checked to see if my hotel was on it, and it’s not. But I already knew that, or I knew that room 1566 was bed bug free… for the time being. Who knows what the next guest will bring.

- The MSDSonline Team -