Insecticides, Efficacy, and EPA

Bed Bug

Underside of Immature Bed Bug

The US has a hands-off policy for most interaction between marketers and consumers. Caveat Emptor: Let the Buyer Beware! Consumers are often at a disadvantage. The seller knows how well their product works. The consumer often lacks the ability to test efficacy of the product and may rely solely on the claims of the marketer. In the case of a pest that is new to a consumer the choice is more difficult. One important source of information for consumers are University Extension Service Bulletins. Universities evaluate products for efficacy and publish the results.

Consumers are sometimes confused about the implications of EPA insecticide registration. EPA primary concerns are product health and safety. EPA is minimally concerned about product efficacy except as it affects health and safety. The guidelines for establishing the EPA left recommendations on quality of the products to “The Market”. EPA registration does not mean that a product will provide control that is completely satisfactory to the consumer. EPA registration implies that an insecticide has minimal risk if used according to directions. An insecticide may have a substantial risk of harm if directions are not followed.

Some insects have negative impacts on human health.   EPA maintains a List of Pests of Significant Public Health Importance. The insects on the list includes:
Cockroaches; Due to Asthma, Allergenic Effects and food contamination.
Human Lice; Due to rashes, skin irritation and human disease transmission.
Mosquitoes; Due to human disease transmission.
Bed Bugs; Due to bite allergies.

For these pests, EPA requires significantly more efficacy data to approve an insecticide for their control. Of the listed pests, Bed Bugs are the most recent addition. Bed Bugs were not a major problem in the US less than a generation ago. Even though EPA has a list of products approved for “Do-It-Yourself Bed Bug Control”, the knowledge required for successful elimination is not trivial.  There is little cultural experience in eliminating bed bugs.  Consumers must rely on professional advice about best practices and how to use the products to best effect.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Bed Bugs, by jjneal, Pest Management, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

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