Proud to be a PMP: How the pest management industry makes an impact
By Austin M. Frishman, Ph.D.
I’ve been interested in insects since I was knee high to a grasshopper, and the longer I’ve worked in this field, the more I’ve come to appreciate the work we do as pest management professionals (PMPs). We are often the first line of defense against public health pests. Here are a few examples from history and my career that highlight the importance of our work as PMPs.
- In the 1940s, a PMP in New York City named Charles Pomeranz discovered that Rickettsialpox, an illness occurring in children, was transmitted by a house mouse mite. This was a major medical discovery at the time, and an early link between pest management and public health.
In the summer of 1960, as I began my career, I became acutely aware of this link after encountering children whose eyebrows had been eaten off by German cockroaches. I was swarmed by thousands of cockroaches while conducting clean outs. No human should have to live in such conditions, and as PMPs, it’s our job to ensure these conditions never exist.
- I was once invited to participate in a medical conference on children’s asthma in the early 1980s. At the time, I was introduced by the moderator as “the person representing the group most influential to eliminating this respiratory disease.” He explained that in this case, the medical profession was working reactively to treat the symptoms of asthma, while the solution relied on altering the environment in which the children live, which PMPs help to do.
The problem was that one of the flushing agents used by PMPs at the time was triggering asthmatic attacks. In response, I led a team of researchers that worked to find an effective way to treat cockroaches without flushing them. The treatment we developed could be coupled with sticky traps for monitoring, which resulted in a new successful way to do our work — one that could even be used in hospitals around premature infants.
- I received an emergency call in the 1990s from a housing authority that sent me to a low-income housing development that was struggling with a rat infestation so severe that rats were present in 100% of the units — and one rat had even bitten a child in the face. This project took long, 13-hour days for the several years we worked on it. When they had to cut the budget, they asked me what should be eliminated from the pest management program, and I said, “me — the consultant.” Without PMPs on the ground every day, you won’t be able to contain something like this.
- Health departments and public health services rely on PMPs to organize and treat for mosquitoes when a mosquito-borne disease breaks out. Whether it’s encephalitis, Zika, Dengue or malaria, who are you going to call? Not ghostbusters — PMPs!
- With the resurgence of bed bugs, PMPs have had to adapt and develop new protocols for controlling this pest. There are now systematic approaches including monitors, pest proofing and prudent use of insecticides to help keep these pests in check.
PMPs play a vital role within our communities, and I am proud of the work we do. Don’t lose sight of the good this career brings to the world!
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