Ohio Challenges EPA Ban on Chemical that Kills Bedbugs

Published September 4, 2010

With bedbug infestations making a comeback in Ohio and across the United States, Ohio Department of Agriculture officials are petitioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rethink its ban on residential use of Propoxur, a chemical that shows promise in battling the bloodsucking pests.

Bedbug Infestations Rising
“Most householders of this generation have never seen a bedbug. Until recently, they also were a rarity among pest control professionals,” explains Michael Potter, extension entomologist for the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, on the University of Kentucky Entomology Web site.

Infestations were common in the United States around the time of World War II, Potter observes. But “with improvements in hygiene, and especially the widespread use of DDT during the 1940s and ’50s, the bugs all but vanished. Immigration and international travel have undoubtedly contributed to the resurgence, Changes in modern pest control practice, and less effective bedbug pesticides, are other factors suspected for the recurrence.”

Propoxur an Effective Treatment
Scientists at the University of Kentucky have shown in recent studies that Propoxur is very effective at killing bedbugs. EPA has approved Propoxur for use in agricultural and commercial settings, but not in homes. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has asked EPA to loosen its restrictions on home use of the chemical.

“We were receiving reports from pesticide management professionals in the state that they were having trouble controlling bedbugs,” said Matt Beal, an official with the Ohio Department of Agriculture who is petitioning EPA to allow the use of Propoxur in homes. “We looked at the data from Dr. Potter that showed Propoxur was controlling bedbugs, at least in his study.”

EPA Won’t Budge
EPA Director Lisa Jackson told Ohio governor Ted Strickland (D) EPA would not approve home use for the chemical. Strickland has asked EPA to reconsider that determination. Beal said the state is awaiting final word from the EPA.

Dale Kemery, public information officer for EPA in Washington, D.C., said the agency will not change its mind regarding home use of Propoxur.

“EPA denied the request,” Kemery said. “It harms the nervous system of children, and it’s not approved for indoor use.”

Cheryl K. Chumley ([email protected]) writes from northern Virginia.