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August 8, 2010

Pesticides Vs Bed Bugs

CANADA - When Toronto banned pesticides in 2008 they did so without thinking of the consequences. The goal of the pesticide ban was to make a group of parent activists happy, because they were upset about their children playing on grass that "may" have been recently sprayed with pesticides.

Since then grass (the natural habitat of bed bugs) have become a virtual highway of activity of bed bugs traveling all over the great city of Toronto.

Unhappy about the red itchy bites on your body and the bodies of your children? Well, maybe its time we got rid of the pesticide ban.

Thousands of people across Toronto are realizing the horrorific scourge of bed bugs that has been allowed to grow since the banning of pesticides. (It should be noted that they're not all banned. Golf courses are still allowed to spray pesticides, as in any one with a license to spray. The licensing however is basically a tax grab.)

Pest-control companies in the GTA say they now receive four to five calls a week from rich Torontonians who are mortified that their upscale apartment or mansion now has bed bugs. And that is just the rich people who try to keep it quiet.

In recent months hospitals, public libraries, schools, retail stores, hotels (they try and keep it quiet) have been hit by the spread of bed bugs. Despite the efforts of public health officials, pest-control companies and home owners the city is now facing a bed bug crisis and its starting to hurt both the tourism industry and the Toronto real estate market.

And this is just the tip of the ice berg according to the Toronto Bed Bug Project Steering Committee, because most people don't even report their bed bugs... they just get fed up with them and try to move, hoping to leave them behind. Part of the problem is the anxiety, paranoia and social stigma of having bed bugs... disgusted friends and co-workers, even family relationships can become strained if people accidentally bring along a few pests and they trace it back to the person who slept on the couch that one Friday night.

Toronto is not alone in this struggle. Other cities in North America have also banned cosmetic use pesticides and are now facing bed bug epidemics.

In New York City (which also banned pesticide use) they have seen a huge jump to epidemic proportions. In 2008 the city received 21,922 inquires about bed bugs... in 2009 it jumped to 33,772 inquiries. So far NYC has seen 25,000+ inquiries in 2010, suggesting they will reach 50,000 by the end of this year... and they're everywhere in New York, even fancy hotels like the Plaza aren't immune.

Back in 2003, a normal year for bed bugs, Toronto Public Health had only 46 reports of bed bugs. In 2008, the year pesticides were banned it suddenly jumped to 1,324 calls. In 2009 there was 1,841 calls. In 2010 Toronto Public Health expects to receive 2,300+ reports of bed bugs in Toronto.

But really its not TPH that people usually think to call. They usually call pest control, and those numbers are hazy at best. What is known is that pest control companies are hiring and training new staff as quickly as they can to deal with the explosion in bed bugs.

The city is hardly equipped to handle the problem either. They have a total of 3 staff members who help to investigate and support people caught in severe infestations of bed bugs. So far in 2010 they`ve helped 100+ people to get rid of their bed bug problem and have allocated a mere $75,000 to helping people get back on their feet once the pests have been removed. The city is also planning to publish a resource guide for landlords and property managers to help them deal with bed bug infestations.

But all of this could be solved a lot faster if the city (and the province of Ontario) would simply remove the ban on pesticides. Torontonians have been using pesticides for the past hundred years on their lawns and no children have ever been sick from it yet. The unscientific complaints of a few upset parents does not warrant a pesticide ban.

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