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EOH 454 Environmental Health Law

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Case Study: 1

Franklin County Public Health (FCPH) began receiving complaints about bed bugs beginning in 2008 from a variety of different locations throughout their jurisdiction. These locations included private homes, apartments, hotels, libraries, schools and day care facilities, firehouses, hospital emergency rooms, student dorms, and jails. With the permission of the Environmental Health (EH) Director and the Health Commissioner, a policy was approved administratively to create a program to address the bed bug concerns within the jurisdiction of FCPH. A FCPH EH Division staff member tracked and responded to 90% of these complaints by either providing bedbug prevention education or an on-site inspection, and spent 75% of his time on the program. This staff member was highly passionate about the bed bug problem and other EH problems within his control. He also had a history of developing and implementing programs to address EH needs and state requirements, because of his “passion,” that were far in excess of what was “normal,” to increase the perceived value of his work in FCPH (which he believed was job security).  Enforcement against hotel and apartment owners to treat the affected areas were sometimes effective. The FCPH’s mission at that time was: “Franklin County Public Health improves the health of our communities by preventing disease, promoting healthy living and protecting against public health threats through education, policies, programs and partnerships.”  

At that time the CDC considered bed bugs a “resurging worldwide problem, causing property loss, expense, and inconvenience. The good news is that bed bugs do not transmit disease. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for signs of an infestation. Bed bugs should not be considered as a medical or public health hazard, and can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.” In the FCPH service area, bedbugs presented a tremendous nuisance to the public. Population groups like the elderly and poor suffered horribly and disproportionately, compared to other groups.

Prior to this time frame, the EPA had banned a pesticide called Propoxor because of the risk of exposure to young children (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-chameides/is-propoxur-the-way-to-no_b_869035.html), the only commercially available pesticide known to eliminate these pests with a few treatments when used according to the label for a cost of around $400-$500. The only other effective method to kill bedbugs was the use of heat treatments that costs thousands of dollars, which needed significant household preparation prior to treatment, and which was not within the abilities of the infirm, elderly, and poor. Without a treatment method that was cost effective, staff felt that they were not doing enough to protect the victims of this nuisance and to improve the quality of their lives. There were no funds available to provide any assistance to pay for the heat treatment method.

A Columbus based advocacy group, which was led by the same  person who was in charge of the bed bug response program at FCPH, proposed that letters be written to the governor of Ohio to request that the ban be lifted. The ban was set due to concerns of exposure to small children within the dwellings that were being treated.

The Columbus City Health Department, which served the jurisdiction in Franklin County not served by FCPH, decided by administrative action that they were not going to dedicate staff time to the bed bug problem, because bed bugs were not a public health hazard.   

This staff member asked the Environmental Health Director to bring a resolution to the Board of Health (BOH) to approve staff to write a letter asking the governor to force the Ohio EPA to lift the ban on Propoxor. There was no advanced notice to the public at large regarding the resolution. The time, date, and location of the Board meeting was advertised as per state law in the newspaper, 10 days prior to the meeting. The members of the advocacy group knew about the resolution being brought to the BOH
for approval. A resolution before the Board does not require a hearing, but a few members of the advocacy group were in the audience. These members could contribute to the discussion as “members of the public” if permitted by the Board. This solution would be a “win-win’ for all stakeholders: hotel owners, landlords, FCPH, the pesticide application industry, and the victims of bedbugs.

Using the above case study, answer the question below using the Ethical Analysis Framework in attached Module. The answers must be addressed under the three main subject areas in the Framework:    

If you were the EH Director, would you bring a resolution to the Board to request that the governor lift the ban. Why or why not?

Case 2 Study:  

Read the case entitled “C. Rice Packing Co. v. Ballinger, 223 S.W.2d 356 (Ky. Ct. App. 1949).” Summarize this case in layman’s language using a narrative format in your own words. 

Do not use legal terminology. For instance, do not use the term “appellant,” instead translate the term to the definition of appellant for your narrative. Do the same for other legal terms such as complainant, appellant, “case at bar that the opinion therein,” etc. Translate this legal document into a narrative that a non-lawyer could understand in your own words. 

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