EPA plans national bed bug summit

The Environmental Protection Agency is planning its second national bed bug summit for this winter in Washington, D.C. as the blood-sucking pest continues its blitzkrieg on the United States and EPA bans of more effective pesticides are under increasing scrutiny.

The summit is a repeat of an event held in April 2009 in Arlington, Va., but since then the bed bug problem appears only to have grown worse.

Just this week, bed bugs were discovered at the lush Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York as well as the offices of the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the EPA has still not decided whether to allow the use of a more effective pesticide in Ohio, where the problem is particularly acute.

Even so, several top officials on the front line of the battle against bed bugs told The Daily Caller that the EPA has increased its focus on the issue since its potential role in causing the “epidemic” came under greater scrutiny.

Besides planning a second bed bug summit, the agency also recently updated a website that lists hundreds of EPA-approved substances to combat bed bugs.

The EPA has also recently issued large grants and is studying whether some pesticides currently used for other purposes might be used to target bed bugs, too.

As TheDC reported in August, there were almost no bed bugs in the United States between World War II and the mid-1990s.

Around when bed bugs started their resurgence, Congress passed a major pesticides law in 1996 and the Clinton EPA banned several classes of chemicals that had been effective bed bug killers.

Now some health officials are clamoring to bring those chemicals back to help solve the bed bug “emergency.” Meanwhile, EPA bureaucrats have downplayed the idea and environmentalists are pushing hard against the effort, citing safety concerns.

The issue has led to a standoff between Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, and EPA chief Lisa Jackson, who dismissed Strickland’s appeals over the issue in a June letter.

However, the EPA has yet to hammer the nails into Ohio’s pesticide coffin, as a top Ohio agriculture official said the state is still holding out hope the EPA will approve the use of Propoxur.

Unlike many of the pesticides banned in the late 1990s, Propoxur was available for use in residential homes until 2007. At that point, the EPA requested further data from its producer for fear it could pose a risk to children. Industry chose to voluntarily restrict its use from residential areas instead, said Matt Beal of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Beal is heading Ohio’s push for an emergency exemption for Propoxur.

Any Propoxur manufactured before 2007 is still available for use in residential areas, so pest controllers have a limited supply they use “in order to really smash or crush those infestations,” Beal said.

For this reason, Beal said Ohio has offered to collect data on how Propoxur affects residents whose homes are treated with the chemical to show the EPA it is safe. So far, though, the EPA hasn’t made up its mind whether to pursue that route.