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Petitioning Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Thomas Frieden
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Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Thomas Frieden

CDC: Stop the Bed Bug Epidemic

There has been a recent resurgence in bed bug infestations. Although people once associated bed bugs with poor sanitation, it's now known that bed bugs can be found in buildings across all levels of hygiene and income, and are not only in homes and hotels, but also movie theaters, stores and even park benches.

Bed bugs do not transmit diseases, but their treatment can be very dangerous, especially for children and pets.

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Some people say that restrictions on highly toxic pesticides like DDT (which was banned in 1972) are to blame for the current epidemic, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that bed bugs were already largely resistant to DDT by the mid-1950s. There are currently no pesticides specifically for bed bugs and despite their high level of resistance, people are increasingly turning to pesticides to treat infestations.

This has led to pesticides being misused, such as household application of chemicals never intended for indoor use, and pressure to approve and lift restrictions on highly toxic cocktails. 

The Environmental Protection Agency warns: "Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bed bugs can make you, your family, and your pets sick. It can also make your home unsafe to live in — and may not solve the bed bug problem." Children and pets are particularly vulnerable to pesticide poisoning since they are closer to the ground and more likely to ingest the chemicals when they put their hands in their mouths (or lick their paws).

Experts say that the only way to stop the bed bug problem is with a comprehensive public health campaign that focuses on prevention and non-toxic alternatives.

Ask the CDC to declare bed bugs an epidemic-level public health pest. That classification can help secure funding for much-needed research on bed bug control, as well as giving the issue the full power of the CDC's outreach tools to raise public awareness about non-toxic treatment. 

Photo credit: cuttlefish


Letter to
Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Thomas Frieden
I am deeply concerned about the recent resurgence in bed bugs. As both individuals and professionals attempt to treat infestations, they are putting people at serious risk of exposure to high levels of toxic pesticides.

As I'm sure you're aware, there are no pesticides specifically targeted at bed bugs. These hardy bugs are even resistant to banned and restricted chemicals, like DDT. However, people are still turning to pesticide treatments, pressuring legislators to lift restrictions and misusing dangerous chemicals, in ways such as indoor application of chemicals only approved for outdoor use.

The Environmental Protection Agency warns: "Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bed bugs can make you, your family, and your pets sick. It can also make your home unsafe to live in — and may not solve the bed bug problem."

Experts say that the only way to stop the bed bug problem is with a comprehensive public health campaign that focuses on prevention and non-toxic alternatives. The CDC has the outreach to raise public awareness to necessary level.

I urge you to declare bed bugs an epidemic-level public health pest. While the bugs themselves are not known to transmit diseases, their increasingly toxic and frequent treatments pose a serious public health risk, especially for children and pets, who are closer to the ground and more likely to ingest the chemicals.

Thank you for your consideration.