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Board of Health learns of complaints about cockroaches, bedbugs

Apr 16, 2014
Photo by: Journal file photo Jennine Wolf

During the April meeting of the Washington County Board of Health, Environmental Health director Jennine Wolf held up a baggie and announced that it contained bedbugs that she found in the crib of a 4-month-old baby.

A couple of weeks ago Wolf said she received a complaint from a renter and the mother of the 4-month-old about cockroaches and bedbugs.

Wolf then said she received a 4 a.m. phone call from the woman asking if Wolf could do anything to help her. The renter said she was being bitten alive by bugs and she couldn't sleep.

"It about brought tears to my eyes," Wolf said, "because I can't really help with some stuff."

Wolf said she contacted Steve Donnolly, the building official in the city of Washington. They visited the woman's apartment during the daytime.

"I walked in at noon and I was picking up bedbugs off of the floor," Wolf said. "I was picking them out of the baby's crib. Roaches — the roaches are horrendous."

She took photos of the infestation, and passed the photos around to the people at the meeting. Not only did she find cockroaches and bedbugs, she also saw a build up of feces from both types of bugs. She told the landlord that he needed to get a professional pest control operator to deal with the bugs.

"He (landlord) tried to tell me that he had had absolutely no bugs until about two or three months ago," Wolf continued. "Uh-huh, with an infestation like this your house is infested and it's been that way for a long time. "

Wolf said she gets a phone call about once a week about bedbugs.

"What I have to tell them is I can't help them," she said.

Public Health Administrator Danielle Pettit-Majewski said that bedbugs do not spread disease, so public health doesn't do anything about bedbugs.

Board of Health chairman Dr. Lloyd Holm asked a question about dogs that can identify bedbugs.

"I, as a hotel inspector that does know about bedbugs, if I go in and do an inspection, there's a 25 percent chance I'll find them, if they're in there," Wolf said.

"If a pest control operator goes in, there's a 50 percent chance he'll find them if they're in there. With a dog, it's a 95 percent chance. The dog just finds them. He just tells you they're there."

Wolf also told the board that this is not an isolated case.

"This is going on a lot in Washington, Riverside, Wellman — this is something that's going to become more and more common," she said."

Donnolly said this case is an example of why the city is working on a rental code.

The board took no action on the complaint.

In other business, the board accepted the resignations of Ron Bennett and Lori Bauer from the board. They voted to recommend to the board of supervisors new board members Jack Seward Jr. and Virginia Bordwell.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Apr 17, 2014 08:20

Was Rachel Carson a fraud and is DDT
actually safe for humans?

The use of DDT to fight bed bugs was common in the middle of the 20th century, and it worked well at that time. After the widespread use of DDT, bed bugs only appeared in prisons, shelters and hostels.
Was Rachel Carson a fraud and is DDT actually safe for humans? According to Marjorie Mazel Hecht and [San Jose State University] professor J. Gordon Edwards at www.21stcenturysciencetech.com, DDT is safe and indeed saved and can save human lives, and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is full of lies. According to them, the banning of DDT was politically motivated and went against the majority of scientific opinion.
Claiming Silent Spring (1962) is full of lies is a bit harsh. Let's say it contains certain statements at variance with the facts as we now understand them. I'm willing to believe this was a natural result of the fledgling state of environmental science at the time.  We could spend pages debating the details, but the bottom line is this: Soaking the world in DDT like it was bubble bath, standard practice at the time Silent Spring was written, was a bad thing and Carson was right to condemn it. But refusing to use DDT because of exaggerated fears of environmental damage is, in some circumstances, far worse.
Rachel Carson, a biologist and writer who worked for many years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is widely credited with catalyzing the modern environmental movement. Silent Spring was the first popular book to call attention to the dangers of indiscriminate introduction of pesticides and other chemicals into the environment. Carson's principal target was DDT, a cheap and effective insecticide first employed on a large scale during World War II to control typhus and malaria. After the war DDT was widely used in the United States in agriculture and in mosquito abatement programs.
Part of what made DDT appealing was its broad spectrum — it can kill not just one or two but hundreds of insect species (not to mention various other types of wildlife, especially fish, if you aren't careful about overspraying or runoff into streams). Carson took this fact and ran with it, rhetorically speaking — she claimed that DDT and other pesticides would destroy all living things, and that they should properly be termed "biocides." In the chapter from which Silent Spring takes its title, she paints an apocalyptic picture of an environment bereft of life due to chemical pollution, in which "no birds sing." Among other things, the book claims that DDT interferes with bird reproduction and causes cancer in humans; after its publication the chemical was linked to the thinning of eggshells in some avian species. The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970, in no small part due to Silent Spring, and two years later DDT became the first chemical it banned. Most other industrialized nations followed suit, and pressured third world countries to do the same.
Many of Carson's claims were overblown. While DDT is highly toxic to insects and fish and can poison other animals in large enough doses, in moderate amounts it's not especially harmful to birds and mammals, including humans. (Ironically, the EPA's own judge agreed, but was overruled by its chief administrator.) No one has conclusively proved that DDT can give you cancer. The cause of eggshell thinning is likewise poorly understood.
On the other hand, DDT is demonstrably effective at controlling the mosquitoes and other insects that transmit malaria and typhus. Thanks principally to DDT, in the years after World War II malaria was eradicated in the U.S. and sharply curtailed in many tropical countries. Venezuela recorded eight million cases of malaria in 1943; by 1958 that number was down to eight hundred. The World Health Organization estimates that DDT saved 50 to 100 million lives during this period, and that's just counting malaria prevention. In recent years, however, the disease has staged a comeback. Globally it quadrupled during the 1990s, and it's even reappeared sporadically in the United States. The resurgence of malaria is due to a variety of factors, including changes in land use and possibly climate, and some experts say the phasing out of DDT is one of them.
I don't mean to suggest that DDT is benign. On the contrary, it's a potent contact poison, and though it breaks down quickly in sunlight, it's much more persistent in soil and water and accumulates in plants and fatty animal tissues with long-term exposure.
But its drawbacks have to be weighed against its benefits. Malaria currently infects 300 to 500 million people annually, mostly in Africa, and causes as many as 2.7 million deaths. Alternative methods of mosquito control cost more and are less effective. Some 400 scientists and doctors have signed a petition opposing the inclusion of DDT among the 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to be banned under a United Nations treaty now up for ratification, and a few public health experts are campaigning to bring DDT back. DDT isn't a panacea; India, which still uses it, suffered nasty outbreaks of malaria in the 90s, and insects in many parts of that country have become resistant to the chemical. But it remains an important tool, and in a time of rising global pestilence we shun it at our peril.

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