Friday, January 21, 2011

Ohio's request for potent bed bug insecticide denied, again

For some reason, Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states with bed bugs. Even the governor has gotten involved, petitioning the EPA last year for a special exemption to allow the use of an older carbamate insecticide, propoxur, for bed bug control.  This exemption, also called a Section 18 Emergency Exemption after the FIFRA section that authorizes it, is something that EPA does not give out easily.

Propoxur, as it turns out, is still pretty effective against bed bugs.  In Australia, for example, PMPs regard one of the propoxur-containing products as most effective.  In another study using presumably resistant bed bugs from Sri Lanka, propoxur provided the best control compared to DDT and malathion.

Much to the dismay of Ohioans, their Section 18 request was turned down last summer.  The EPA was asked to reconsider, and in a letter dated January 11 Lisa Jackson, the EPA Administrator, responded.  In her letter Jackson denied the use of existing stocks for bed bug control, and steadfastly maintains that her agency believes the product poses an unacceptable risk for children.

In an interesting concession, Jackson told the governor that EPA would consider allowing the use of propoxur in senior residences, where the risk of exposure to children would be minimal: 
As I explained in my June 2010 letter to you, EPA cannot grant Ohio's broad request because the Agency's risk assessment indicates an unacceptable risk to children . Nonetheless, I committed the Agency to work with Ohio and others to identify comprehensive alternative approaches to address bed bug infestations . As we also discussed in September 2010, EPA is willing to allow the emergency use of propoxur in senior residences in ways that would ensure children are not exposed. EPA staff has discussed this proposal with Ohio officials and have asked them to submit a revised request reflecting this proposal, but Ohio has not yet done so. We continue to hope the state will submit a revised Section 18 request to help provide relief to a highly impacted population.

She also noted that EPA is reviewing new data that might affect the way EPA determines how much exposure to propoxur or other insecticides that children might receive as a result of crack and crevice applications.  So the door is still open for EPA to backtrack should political pressure trump science, as it sometimes does.

Maybe the saddest part of this story is that, according to governmental authority, children don't visit grandma anymore.

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