State Attorneys General Sue HUD Over Pesticide Use

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D), who sues more evildoers before breakfast than most lawyers sue in a lifetime, has joined the attorneys general of four other states (and the plucky U.S. Virgin Islands) in suing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over its use of pesticides. At issue is a 1996 law instructing HUD and other federal agencies to use integrated pest management (IPM) — non-chemical pest-fighting techniques — in public housing units, with pesticides a last resort. The suit charges that HUD has flouted the law and uses far too many pesticides, endangering children and expectant mothers. It does not ask HUD to eliminate pesticides, but to “think in a mindset that is preventive rather than reactive,” said Spitzer. IPM involves sanitation improvements, basic repairs, caulking holes, and traps, and according to one recent study can reduce roaches by 50 percent and pesticide use by 90 percent. HUD responded that it has been reducing pesticides, that it encourages a “holistic” pest-management strategy, and anyway, the law says it has to “promote” the chemical-free strategy, not require it.