One of the major problems of pesticide regulation (or any regulation) is compliance. Why should people follow the rules? Fines or criminal penalties can provide negative incentives and punish wrongdoing. However, if the chances of being caught are low and the potential rewards of breaking the rules are high, compliance may become an issue. Good regulations will consider compliance and try to provide appropriate incentives.
Pesticide treatments of homes and urban structures are the most problematic area of pesticide non-compliance. Some pesticides that can be used safely outdoors, can poison people who are continuously exposed to the pesticide indoors. At the same time, these pesticides are very effective at killing indoor pests. Thus, there is a temptation for unscrupulous people to use them indoors. However, they legally cannot and (for health reasons) should not be used indoors because of health risks. EPA recognized that a whole class of insecticides, cholinesterase inhibitors, were a health risk if used indoors. Indoor use of all cholinesterase inhibitors was banned in 2002.
The recent bed bug explosion has created many people who are desperate to get rid of their bed bug infestations at any price. Thus, it is not surprising to find problems arising with misuse of pesticides to control bed bugs. (US grapples with bedbugs, misuse of pesticides) We read that in Cincinnati, residents were sickened and hospitalized after exposure to illegal pesticide treatments. Authorities are pursuing criminal charges, but that is cold comfort to people who were poisoned. The incentives against using illegal pesticides are breaking down. What are desperately needed are new bed bug treatments that do not have the health risks of the banned pesticides. If applicators have legal pesticides that are just as effective as the illegal ones, they will use the legal pesticides and comply with the law.
Better methods of detecting and eliminating bed bug infestations are clearly needed. People often complain about spending tax dollars on research, but new methods of bed bug control are unlikely to happen without support for experts to study the problem and test new products and methods. Research that leads to better control of bed bugs would be money well spent. The public needs to be educated about bed bugs and steps they can take to protect themselves.
Bed bugs are not an easy problem or it would have already been solved. There are tradeoffs between bed bug control and health risks that need close attention, because the incentives against improper use of pesticides are not strong enough.