Say 'No' to Bed Bugs

Heat pest eradication is an alternative to conventional bed bug treatments.

For years, the hospitality industry has been fighting a chemical war against bed bugs. Now, with a growing menace of pesticide-resistant bugs and increasing documentation of human chemical injury, the question to consider is, “Are we using the right tactics?” Is a chemical war really the best choice when it is proving increasingly less effective and when non-chemical heat treatments—like structural pasteurization—are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?

Chemical pesticides—historically the first choice in killing bed bugs—are increasingly cited as the cause of illness to occupants, residents and pest control applicators. According to the Sept. 23, 2011 edition of the CDC and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (volume 60, No. 37), acute bed bug pesticide-related illnesses have been reported in at least seven states including New York, California, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Washington and North Carolina—with one fatality reported due to pesticide poisoning.

Because traditional chemicals are increasingly ineffective against pesticide-resistant bed bugs and their eggs, some pest control companies are even pressing to use more dangerous chemicals. But this puts occupants and applicators at greater risk for what’s likely to be only short-term gains, as bed bugs continue to adapt to commonly used pesticides.

Also troubling is the CDC’s evidence that pesticide-resistant bed bugs are on the rise and have been confirmed in at least five states, including California, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia.

“Bed bug populations and infestations are increasing in the United States and internationally,” states the CDC report. “Bed bugs have an increased prevalence of insecticide resistance, including resistance to agents such as pyrethroids.”

Evolving resistance to commonly used chemical pesticides is to be expected since living organisms naturally adapt. “Evolution of resistance is a common outcome of use of a single insecticide, or insecticides with a common mode of action, against populations for consecutive generations,” states the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology paper titled “Insecticide Resistance in the Bed Bug: A Factor in the Pest’s Sudden Resurgence?”

Because of increasingly pesticide-resistant bed bugs, a growing number of pest control operators are pushing to treat bed bugs using previously banned pesticides. But this only increases the health risk to occupants, residents, pest control applicators and others involved.

For instance, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection fined a Newark company $860,000 in 2011 for using hazardous pesticides to fight bed bugs. An investigation found that two chemicals unapproved for indoor use were used. These chemicals can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and muscle twitching.

The ThermaPureHeat process, developed by Dr. Michael Linford and David Hedman, has been successfully used against insect infestations such as bed bugs and termites, and has been equally effective against mold, fungi, bacteria and viruses. It has also been used to improve indoor air quality by accelerating the off-gassing of odors and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Doctors have prescribed the process to purify and cleanse the structures for asthma patients.

Unlike fumigation, which is applied only to entire structures, the heat treatment process is highly effective for localized, area or whole structure treatments including infestations confined to a single hotel room, condo or apartment. Unlike fumigation, no chemicals are involved, there’s no odor and no move out is required if completed in a single day. While non-chemical, some pest professionals choose to use the heat treatment process and dust with a chemical desiccant.

For hotels or property owners sensitive to the social stigma of bed bugs, what’s especially attractive about the heat treatment process is its speed and unobtrusiveness. Since the new electric heaters fit easily on a cart, they can be discreetly brought up into affected rooms without disturbing guests or announcing there’s a problem.

Rich Wasvary is president of Expediant Environmental Solutions, which offers clients structural pasteurization to get rid of bedbugs, rodents, bacteria and mold without the use of chemicals.