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Be Aware of Bedbug Cross Contamination With Bedding Pick-ups

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Editor's Note: Bedbugs are on the rise in the US, and can present an issue for furniture and bedding stores. Retailers who pick up and dispose of used mattresses, or take back mattresses due to warranty or "customer satisfaction" guarantees risk the possibility of bedbug infestations being transferred to new bedding.

Care should be taken to not transport used bedding on the same trucks as new bedding or store used mattresses in places where there is any possiblity of cross contamination.  Proper practices can prevent store infestations and also the transferring of pests to customers who purchase new bedding.

Proper written proceedures can also protect against claims by customers that new bedding caused a bedbug infestation.

This can be a serious problem for retailers as evidenced by numerous blog posts against major retailers that can be found by making a simple internet search. Generally consumers accuse retailers of selling used bedding. Some typical blog posts follow:

"I just buy a new house and need a new bed. I go to (Major Retailer)  figuring I want good quality since I bought a house. All of a sudden theres the hives. Horrible itching and me and husband are goin crazy trying to get rid of them. They havent called me back yet so I don't know what they have to offer, but soon it will be a lawyer on them. It's called need new furniture and need to have bedroom bombed. It's all over mu carpet. It is very frustrating cuz now I have to buy a new bed and mattress and bomb it.I am so disgusted with the matter."

"(Major Discount Retailer's)  service was terminable from the beginning.I purchased a tv/dresser night stand and head board.On the delivery of the furniture the nihtstand had a broken corner and they said they would order a new top.I refused and asked to have a new stand delivered.It cam in two weeks.To find out when the furniture was delivered it also had a guest BEDBUGS.This gets bigger than you would like.They where in two bedrooms making us itch like crazy.I had to remove all articles off the walls and bag everything in the rooms.It took monehy and time.I had to dispose of two  mattresses and box springs$$$$$$$$$$$$."

"Have to comment on your remark about buying cheap bedding from "Major Discount Bedding Retailer) and the 'big stores' You are BIG and wrong. Just bought a bed from (Medium Priced Major Bedding Retaler) infested with bed bugs. So not trying to save money and a lazy american. Google bed bugs (Medium Priced Major Bedding Retailer's name) and you will see pages of stories regarding bed bugs..." 

"We purchased a brand new mattaress from (Major Department Store). When we received it, it had a few darkish brown black spot at the bottom corner, which we thought was ink or something splattered. Since last week these spots spread all around mattress and now see bugs ... it's disgusting I called ( Major Department Store) to inform them and seeking replacement..The supervisor named _____ accused us of lying and now I'm out $625 and No Bed to sleep in. I've been a customer of Macy's for 15+ years. I've contacted several news stations and am seeking justice."

Bedbugs are difficult to control and recently. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alerted consumers that there has been an increase of individuals or companies who offer to control bedbugs with unrealistic promises of effectiveness or low cost.

Because bed bug infestations are so difficult to control, there have been situations where pesticides that are not intended for indoor residential applications have been improperly used or applied at greater rates than the label allows. While controlling bedbugs is challenging, consumers should never use, or allow anyone else to use, a pesticide indoors that is intended for outdoor use, as indicated on the label. Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bedbugs can make you, your family, and your pets sick. It can also make your home unsafe to live in - and may not solve the bedbug problem.

Bedbugs can cause itchy bites on people and pets. Unlike most public-health pests, however, bed bugs are not known to transmit or spread diseases. Pesticides are only one tool to use in getting rid of bedbugs. A comprehensive approach that includes prevention and non-chemical treatment of infestations is the best way to avoid or eliminate a bedbug problem. While more information can be found on EPA's website, a few examples of non-chemical methods of control include:

  • Removing clutter where bedbugs can hide
  • Using mattress covers designed to contain bedbugs
  • Sealing cracks and crevices
  • Vacuuming rugs, and upholstered furniture thoroughly and frequently, as well as vacuuming under beds (take the vacuum bag outside immediately and dispose in a sealed trash bag)
  • Washing and drying clothing and bed sheets at high temperatures (heat can kill bedbugs)
  • Placing clean clothes in sealable plastic bags when possible
  • Being alert and monitoring for bedbugs so they can be treated before a major infestation occurs

This comprehensive method of pest control is called integrated pest management and includes a number of common sense control methods.

If you need to use pesticides, follow these tips to ensure your safety and that the product works:

  • Before using any pesticide product, READ THE LABEL FIRST, then follow the directions for use
  • Check the product label to make sure it is identified for use on bedbugs. If bedbugs are not listed on the label, the pesticide has not been tested for bedbugs and it may not be effective
  • Any pesticide product label without an EPA registration number has not been reviewed by EPA to determine how well the product works
  • Make sure that the pesticide has been approved for indoor use

EPA is involved in a number of activities to assist in managing the bedbug problem. EPA hosted a bedbug summit in April 2009, and more recently, the agency has been participating in an interagency task force on bedbugs that, among other actions to date, has:

  • Issued a joint statement from CDC and EPA to highlight the public health impacts of bedbugs,
  • Identified currently registered pesticides that may be effective against bedbugs and is working with the Agricultural Research Service to test the pesticides for efficacy in their labs
  • Begun coordinating programs for IPM techniques to address bedbugs
  • Facilitated information exchange between the federal agencies to promote efficient, effective use of resources

More information on IPM, bedbugs and how to control them: http://epa.gov/pesticides/bedbugs

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