Bites That Bother and Bites That Kill; Pesticide 'Risks' Have Different Consequences in America and Africa

Article excerpt


''Don 't let the bedbugs bite" is no longer a fashionable good-night wish for Big Apple kids, even in the city's high-rent districts and posh hotels. Growing in-

festations of the ravenous bloodsuckers have New Yorkers annoyed, anguished, angry about officialdom's inadequate responses and itching for answers.

Their Bedbug Advisory Board recommends a bedbug team and educational website. Residents, it advises, should monitor and report infestations. Use blow-dryers to flush out maybe 5 percent of the bugs, then sweep them into a plastic bag and dispose properly. Throw away thousands of dollars' worth of infested clothing, bedding, carpeting and furniture.

Hire expensive professionals who have insecticides that might eradicate the pests - and hope you don't get scammed. Don't use risky pesticides yourself. Follow guideline for donating potentially infested furnishings, and be wary of bedbug risks from donated furniture and mattresses.

New Yorkers want real solutions, including affordable insecticides that work. Fear and loathing from decades of chemophobic indoctrination are slowly giving way to a healthy, renewed recognition that the risk of not using chemicals can be greater than the risk of using them (carefully). Eco-myths are being replaced with more informed discussions about supposed effects of DDT and other pesticides on humans and wildlife.

Thankfully, bedbugs have not been linked to disease - except sometimes severe emotional distress associated with obstinate infestations; incessant itching; and pathetic proactive advice, rules and solutions right out of Saturday Night Live.

It is hellish for people who must live with bedbugs and can't afford professional eradication like what Hilton Hotels or Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg might hire. But imagine what it's like for 2 billion people who live 24/7/365 with insects that are responsible for disease: malarial mosquitoes.

Malaria infects more than 300 million people annually. For weeks or months on end, it renders them unable to work, attend school or care for their families - and far more susceptible to death from tuberculosis, dysentery, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and other diseases that still stalk their impoverished lands.

This vicious disease causes low birth weights in babies and leaves millions permanently brain-damaged. It kills more than a million people annually, most of them children and mothers, the vast majority of them in Africa. It drains families' meager savings and magnifies and perpetuates the region's endemic poverty.

Emotional distress? Imagine the stress that comes from having no escape from destitution and disease; having to support a child with a perpetual 10-year-old's mental functions; burying your baby, wife or sibling; or wondering whether you can walk 20 miles to a clinic before the child you are carrying dies and whether the clinic will have non-counterfeit medicine to cure her. …