I came across this seemingly mundane article from this web site for a news station in Ohio. It read the same as a hundred other stories I'd seen: bed bugs unseen in U.S. for fifty years, they hide in beds and headboards, bites and welts, etc.
But then I saw something rather interesting, dare I say, fascinating.
But 50 years after DDT basically eradicated bed bugs in this country, they're back.
DDT is banned now, so getting rid of the quarter-inch little buggers isn't easy. . . but getting them is.
I had seen a correlation months ago between the period of time that bed bugs seemed to have been (almost) driven to extinction in the U.S. (1950s-1960s) and 1972, the year DDT was banned by the EPA. Some web sites and news reports I've read have alluded to the connection between bed bugs and DDT, but this is the first time I've seen a news report clearly link the two together.
I quickly Googled "DDT and bed bugs" and found a lot of interesting links, which I will share with you now.
- Wikipedia Entry on DDT
- EPA Press Release on DDT Ban From 1972
- The DDT Ban Myth..a Commentary
- Editorial on the DDT Ban from 21st Century Science and Technology Magazine
- National Geographic Article on The Demand fot he Return of DDT
From what I've read so far, the main reason for the demand for the legalization of DDT is the rise of malaria in third-world countries. Apparently, DDT was used primarily to kill the mosquitoes which carried malaria. In The DDT Ban Myth, it states the following passage from a book titled Trashing the Planet:
Public health statistics from Sri Lanka testify to the effectiveness of the
spraying program. In 1948, before the use of DDT, there were 2.8 million
cases of malaria. By 1963, there were only 17. Low levels of
infection continued until the late 1960s, when the attacks on DDT in the U.S.
convinced officials to suspend spraying. In 1968, there were one million
cases of malaria. In 1969, the number reached 2.5 million, back to the
pre-DDT levels. Moreover, by 1972, the largely unsubstantiated charges
against DDT in the United States had a worldwide effect. In 1970, of two
billion people living in malaria regions, 79 percent were protected and the
expectation was that malaria would be eradicated. Six years after the
United States banned DDT, there were 800 million cases of malaria and 8.2
million deaths per year. Even worse, because eradication programs were
halted at a critical time, resistant malaria is now widespread and travelers
could take it home.
From what I've read, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that alleged DDT as being harmful to humans, even in trace amounts. The main concern is that a few humans have experienced some non-fatal side effects of DDT ingestion and that birds are affected by laying eggs with thinner eggs, increasing the chances for baby birds to die before hatching.
A small price to pay for the legalization of DDT, I think.
I think now is the time to contact our Congressmembers and demand for the legalization of DDT. When they ask why, you can tell them how your heart goes out to all the little African and South Asian children who lost their mommies and daddies to malaria. Of course, you can also remind them that millions of Americans are suffering psychologically from bed bugs, real estate values are plummeting from properties infested with bed bugs and our nation's hospitality industry will suffer with a drecrease in foreign visitors--and all the money they bring with them.
Of course, Congress will drag its ass to get this done, so in the meantime (I hope this isn't too irresponsible to propose). why don't we smuggle it in? Every day, cocaine, marijuana, firearms, Cuban cigars, people, and all other sorts of contraband that find its way past our country's borders and into our homes. So why not DDT?
For anyone reading this who regularly purchases illegal drugs, please tell your friendly neighborhood drug dealer you'd like to know just how much it would cost to get your hands on some DDT. Trust me, this is basic economics: create the demand, and the supply will create itself. There must be some part of the world where DDT is still legal. And that part of the world is about to get a lot of American dollars.
Or maybe we could manufacture DDT in the garages and tool sheds of those cute little suburban homes they way they do with the meth labs. We could be proud because like crystal meth, DDT is also MADE IN AMERICA!!!!
(waving the Stars and Stripes)
God, I hope this entry doesn't get me arrested.