Check Up: Don't let the bedbugs bite

There have been complaints of infestation from discarded bedding.
There have been complaints of infestation from discarded bedding. (
Posted: October 14, 2013

If you live in Philadelphia, the Sanitation Department will soon be bugging you to seal unwanted mattresses and box springs in plastic disposal bags before putting them out for pickup.

The reason is Cimex lectularius, better known as bedbugs.

Many mattresses wind up on the curb because they harbor the apple seed-sized bloodsuckers. (Not saying you were infested, but, for sure, bedbugs are in apartments, hotels, nursing homes, schools, thrift stores, and other places near you.)

Encasing mattresses in plastic is a way to protect you, your neighbors - and your garbage collectors - from unintentionally giving bedbugs a lift to their next home. And meal.

"We had numerous complaints from our sanitation employees," said Donald D. Carlton, deputy streets commissioner for sanitation. "We also had . . . complaints from residents" who blamed infestations on neighbors' discarded mattresses.

The new rule, which also applies to mattresses taken to the city's three trash drop-off centers, goes into effect Dec. 1. In preparation, residents will be blitzed with notifications through water bills, block captains, and Council members.

Mattress disposal bags - part of the industry spawned by the bedbug resurgence that followed the banning of powerful pesticides - cost about $7 apiece. Bags are available at major retail and home-improvement stores and online.

Bedbugs don't fly, jump, or (thankfully) transmit any known disease, but they are prolific, good at hiding, hard to get rid of, and can survive a year without food - namely, human blood. About 30 percent of people have no reaction to bedbug bites; everybody else develops intensely itchy, swollen, red bumps.

The city's regulation is modeled on New York City's, which began requiring mattress disposal bags three years ago, Carlton said.

The new rule includes a grace period. For the first 60 days, warnings will be posted on discarded mattresses and box springs that are not put in disposal bags.

"After that," Carlton said, "we will issue citations" that come with a $50 fine.

It could be worse. In the Big Apple, the fine is $100.



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