Improving Human Health and Safety through Elimination of Insect Pests

Published November 1, 2007

I live in a log home deep in the woods of Ohio. It is a beautiful place we must share with countless insidious insects that would threaten the very foundation of our home, its superstructure, and our personal health if we let them.

Only our exterminator stands between that terrible outcome and the reality of our beautiful, sound home and the good health we enjoy.

I use the old-fashioned term “exterminator” because it far better describes and suits the people who protect our home and health than the more modern name most of those in the insect elimination business now use (and what a shame it is). “Pest management,” in my opinion, is a pathetic description of what they do.

A “pest” is a noisy child we wish to quiet down and remove from our presence.

We are not dealing with pests in our cabin–we are dealing with vermin that willingly infect our bodies, our homes, and our food. They are far worse than simple pests. What exterminators do is provide health and safety through insect elimination.

Health Care Professionals

Exterminators are, in fact, in the health care industry as much as any medical doctor you know, and they need to explain this to their customers and the public at large. It is time for them to stop being on the defensive against environmental zealots who have poisoned the public mind toward the true health and safety that exterminators provide.

Environmental zealots have preached a form of chemophobia that has methodically cost us the use of the powerful weapons we previously had available against the vermin with which we do battle.

“Integrated Pest Management” is simply a fancy name for the common sense we all use in attempting first to reduce the potential of insect proliferation through simple physical sanitation techniques before using insecticides to finish the job. But the public has been hoodwinked into thinking such common-sense techniques without the use of chemicals can completely eliminate insects. In most cases, common-sense sanitation is not enough.

People Priority

I think every state pest management association should consider changing its name to the state “Insect Disease and Structural Damage Control Association.” Sure, it’s long, but it tells the real story.

We should find something shorter and equally effective if possible, but the industry needs to stop offering up the current wimpy title as cannon fodder for those who would eliminate them instead of the insects that threaten us.

These environmental zealots would rather stand up to protect the life of insect vermin than to protect the human species which, deep down, they commonly loathe. I ask you, have you ever met a happy-go-lucky, upbeat environmental zealot?

Family Business

Exterminators are the good guys, not the bad guys the public too often believes them to be. The industry itself must change this. They must make an effort to spend time with customers explaining what they do and why they do it.

More often than not, people in the extermination business are defensive about their work and choose not to talk about it either on the job or in social situations. They need to explain to every customer how important the insect disease control industry is and why using their services is a very wise decision.

In social settings, exterminators should not shy away from discussions of what they do professionally, but instead enter into positive and aggressive educational discussions that will render friends and neighbors more knowledgeable about the industry’s importance and the role it plays in health care.

Will it change public attitudes overnight? Of course not. Can it change public attitudes within a generation? Or less? Absolutely.

After a decade of effort in educating everyone in their spheres of influence, the industry can make sure its work is as appreciated as it was decades ago.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director for The Heartland Institute.