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Bed Bugs: Don't Panic

Beg bugs do not transmit disease and can be controlled without toxic pesticides

The recent bed bug resurgence across the U.S. has homeowners and apartment dwellers taking desperate measures to eradicate these tenacious bloodsuckers, with some relying on dangerous pesticides and fly-by-night exterminators. Even pesticides registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for bed bug use are linked to acute poisoning, cancer, hormone disruption, asthma, neurotoxicity, organ damage, and more. These measures pose more dangers than any perceived short-term benefit.

While there is no magic bullet solution to bed bug eradication, there are many ways to effectively control them without the use of dangerous chemical pesticides. To solve the bed bug problem nationwide, it is going to take a comprehensive public health campaign -public-service announcements, travel tips and perhaps even government-sponsored integrated pest management programs for public housing and other high density areas. If you have bed bugs in your home, they can be effectively controlled through a comprehensive strategy that incorporates monitoring, sanitation, sealing, heat treatments and more.

Below are steps you can take to reduce and get rid of bed bug populations in your home:

  • Caulk and seal crevices. Prevent bed bugs from entering your home.
  • Eliminate clutter. Getting rid of as much clutter as possible will help you locate and eliminate infestations.
  • Vacuum. This will only remove visible bed bugs, but is important to get rid of dead bed bugs and their frass. Use a stiff brush to dislodge eggs in cracks and crevices and use a vacuum attachment that does not have bristles to get into the corners. Be sure to discard the bag immediately after vacuuming.
  • Launder Fabrics and Clothing. Wash and dry clothing for 30 minutes or a full cycle at the hottest setting the fabric will allow. Dry clean only clothes can simply be put into the dryer. If the fabric is too delicate for the hottest temperature, place it on a lower heat setting and let it run for the full cycle.
  • Encase mattresses and box springs. Make sure the encasement has been tested for bed bugs and will not rip and does not contain synthetic pesticides impregnated in the material. It will eventually kill all bed bugs inside.
  • Steam Treatment. Steam treatment will kill all stages of bedbugs. Move the nozzle over the bed bugs at a rate of 20 seconds per linear foot, and wrap a piece of fabric over the upholstery nozzle to reduce water pressure to make sure bed bugs don’t blow away. Many pest control companies provide this option, but you may have to ask for it.
  • Heat Treatment. Heat, either blown with a fan or ambient, can provide complete control of bed bugs, if all areas of infestation reach 120 degrees F.

Regulatory Update

In November 2009, the Ohio Department of Agriculture asked EPA to allow an unregistered use of the neurotoxic and cancer causing insecticide propoxur in homes to fight bedbugs in what state officials are describing as an ‘emergency’ situation. In December 2009, Beyond Pesticides sent comments to EPA urging the agency to deny the request because safer alternatives exist and its use would put children in danger. Under pressure from Beyond Pesticides and others, EPA refused Ohio’s request for an emergency exemption (read more).

For more information on least toxic control of other pests go to our Alternatives Page or call Beyond Pesticides at 202-543-5450.