May 9, 2010

A BEDBUG EXPLOSION IN NEW YORK CITY. Bring back DDT. “The recent citywide resurgence of bedbugs has been well documented. In 2004, the Health Department tallied 537 complaints and 82 actual violations. Last year, those numbers ballooned to 10,985 complaints and 4,084 violations (given that the problem is thought to be significantly underreported, the notion that there aren’t far more cases is daylight madness).”

Here, by the way, is a recipe for homemade DDT, though I haven’t tried it and don’t vouch for it. Perhaps some readers will know more. Given New York’s problem, I’m surprised there’s not a flood of homemade DDT. It’s happened before.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Long time reader, occasional writer. I am a PhD synthetic organic chemist; as such, as I found your article on homebrew DDT to be of some professional interest.

The procedure appears to be legit; nevertheless, I would strongly encourage no one to perform the chemistry outside of a lab environment. Most of the ingredients have reasonable levels of toxicity. As a chemist, I’d feel comfortable performing this chemistry in my lab, where I’d have the protection of a continuously drawing fume hood, lots of PPE and pretty decent temperature control. The ingredients aren’t really easy to get (chloral hydrate is hard to get, even for a professional chemist).

Finally, the waste streams from this chemistry would definitely be considered hazardous waste and something that shouldn’t be poured down the drain.

All of this to say, don’t do this in your garage — I think you’d regret it.

Well, I certainly wouldn’t. But then, I wouldn’t even make black powder nowadays, something I did as a kid. Meanwhile, reader Joan Pickett offers a prediction: “The ban on DDT will last right up until they start appearing in the bedrooms of the political class. Bed bugs are fine for you, but not for your…um…betters.”