Invisible Scourge: What Bed Bugs and Propoxur Can Teach Us About Health and the Urban Environment
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Bed bugs were once considered eliminated from the United States, so recent resurgence of this pest has been cause for concern. Presence of these troublesome insects has resulted in the proposal of controversial policies. For example, the state of Ohio petitioned the EPA for a FIFRA Section 18 emergency exemption to use the insecticide propoxur, a neurotoxin, to treat bed bug infestations in the state. In this thesis, I analyzed public comments for the exemption, task force reports, and media to examine how health and the urban indoor environment are framed in this decision-making process. Though bed bugs carry stigma, those who have them are not overtly blamed for the pest. However, an inability to eliminate them effectively is situated as a lack of personal responsibility. A political ecology of health analysis and healthism are used to understand how narratives of health and personal responsibility justify use of this pesticide.