So Bring Back DDT Already!

Monday, August 13, 2007

The LA Times reports that bedbugs are becoming more common in residences across southern California.

They used to be associated with cramped and dirty living quarters, grimy motels and high-rise living in places like New York. For much of the second part of the last century the liberal use of the eventually banned pesticide DDT seemed to all but do away with them. Now bedbugs have moved into single-family homes with a vengeance and taken up lodging in schools, hospitals and college dormitories too. The wide-open spaces of the West are no defense.

"Bedbugs are just going ballistic everywhere," said Michael Potter, a professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky. "It is going to really rock this country. I'm not trying to sound sensationalist."

Bedbugs hitchhike on humans or in luggage and burrow into bedding, books, sofas and just about any cozy place, even picture frames. Once they establish squatter's rights, evicting them isn't easy. Or cheap. Casting them out of the average house in Southern California can cost thousands of dollars and require multiple visits. [bold added]
So now, people are finally seeing the error of their ways, and are reconsidering the wisdom of banning DDT, right?

That remains to be seen. Until then, ...
They arrived in the New World with the first colonists and were plentiful until about the 1940s, when DDT seemed to do away with them.

Their comeback means public education is vital, Potter said. For example, it's foolhardy to retrieve a mattress or couch from a curb or a dumpster. "That," he said, "is going to have to stop."


He's not optimistic about the future, given current restrictions on powerful chemicals and the bugs' knack for adapting to them. "Our arsenal is depleted of effective products," he said, and there's no "silver bullet in the wings." [bold added]
Potter would do well to add informing people of the bad science behind the banning of DDT in the first place to his admonitions against picking up used furniture -- or at least to do so more explicitly.

Who needs a "silver bullet in the wings" when all one needs to do is consider loading the perfectly good one he already has in hand?

-- CAV

PS: (1) Incidentally, Noumenal Self points to an interesting article on the mosquito-repellent properties of DDT over and above its toxicity.

(2) This is not the first time I have blogged on the reemergence of the bedbug.

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