Bed-Bugs and Beyond: A Case for Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Recently, there has been quite a bit of media attention given to the resurgence of bed-bugs in southern California and across the U.S. These tiny parasites that are notoriously difficult to kill or contain have returned in full force. Resistant strains of “super” bed-bugs are infesting mattresses at an alarming rate across the country. Pest control companies nationwide reported a 71% increase in bed-bug calls between 2000 and 2005.
What most of these media stories do not address is the over-reliance on highly toxic chemical pesticides to control bed-bugs or other pests in the home. (In California, urban use of pesticides in and around our homes, schools, workplaces and communities equals or exceeds all in-state agricultural use of these chemicals.)
The conventional response to pest infestations in residences is to spray chemical pesticides. Unfortunately, there are several major problems with using pesticides in the home, including health risks to residents — particularly children — and the development of resistant strains of pests, i.e. super bugs.
The health impacts of chemical pesticides include immediate poisonings that result in stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting and even death. Over the long-term, exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancers, birth defects, reproductive and developmental harm, damage to brain function, and disruption of the body’s hormone system — health impacts that can occur months or years after exposure.
One might ask, then, how do you rid your home of unwanted bed-bugs or other pests?
Public health and environmental agencies, as well as some pest control companies, have begun promoting a more comprehensive approach to pest infestations called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Where typical methods of pest control turn first to chemical controls, IPM seeks to determine why and how pests are becoming a nuisance, and to fix the underlying conditions of the problem. When battling bedbugs, for example, an IPM approach may look something like this: daily vacuuming of the mattress and bedroom furniture; cleaning of bed linens in hot water; moving your bed away from the wall; sealing the crevices in the windows and walls in your bedroom; and, as a last resort, silica gel dusts. This approach has proven to be successful vs. bedbugs.
PSR-LA is promoting the use of IPM in Los Angeles by working with area pest control operators to become Green Shield Certified. Green Shield is a non-profit, certification program that utilizes least-toxic IPM methods to control pests in the home. Green Shield Certified specifically requires that companies use non-chemical approaches first to prevent pest problems. Green Shield offers pest control companies and their customers a new standard for smarter, more effective pest control without unnecessary pesticides.