Decades after the widespread spraying of DDT was banned, bedbugs have made a big comeback. In the USA, at least five states have called on the Department of Defense pleading for money to address the bedbug issue. The state of Ohio is so desperate that it petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to allow in-home use of a pesticide called Propoxur, which was banned out of concern for its effect on children. That request was denied, and the problem persists.
Nationwide exterminator Terminix reports that New York and Philadelphia have the most severe infestations and four cities in Ohio are landed on the top 15 list for bedbug infestations.
Since 2006, the money spent eradicating bedbugs has more than doubled, topping $250 million dollars. Bedbugs do not discriminate and bedbugs can be found in many high end hotels and apartment buildings.
Bedbugs have made a major resurgence because they’ve developed a resistance to most pesticides. Experts say there is an effective weapon – a chemical called Propoxur – that keeps killing for up to five weeks. The EPA says the chemical could be dangerous to children. The government recently said no more could be manufactured for use inside.
“As of a week and a half ago, I ordered the last 170 cases that my supplier was able to find,” says Alonso.
No state is tackling this plague as aggressively as Ohio. It’s even petitioned the EPA for permission to continue using the pesticide Propoxur indoors as its last best option. Even as they await approval, time and stores of the toxin are running out.
“The other options of newer technologies, newer chemicals that will come down the pike, those things will take a long time. We need short term solutions,” says Alonso.
Bedbugs can live up to a year. Each female can give birth to as many as 500. Alonso says unlike roaches or ants, these insects feast on you, which is why they settle on beds, couches, and recliners.
Columbus grandmother Delores Stewart has been fighting the pests for nearly a year. “I don’t want to go to bed. I don’t want them crawling all over me,” she says.
The EPA is standing firm on the ban of Propoxur indoors but offers these suggestions: seal cracks and crevices along baseboards; apply a dusting of diatomaceous earth to all public areas and bedbug prone zones; remove clutter; use a special mattress cover; dry clothing and sheets at high temperatures.
“Don’t let them get out of control because once you let them get out control you can’t handle them,” says Stewart.
Scientists say the perfect parasite never kills its host but as millions of Americans have found out, it can drive them crazy.