I was able to go to the Second Greater Boston Bed Bug Conference yesterday, June 13, 2007. The sub-title was “Extermination and Legislation.” There were many people there, maybe 100 or more, from diverse areas such as government, public housing, inspection services, senior services, property managers and exterminators. They even had live bedbugs attending, freshly-caught that morning, in plastic containers of course.
There was much content and these few paragraphs I write here can cover only some things that struck me. This post unfortunately cannot serve as a comprehensive overview of the many topics that were raised or speakers who addressed us, not all of which I could comment on below. It was an excellent program and I’m sorry it wasn’t pod-casted for everyone here to participate and benefit.
The conference gave out a one-page resource guide and our blog was listed 4 times. Not only bedbugger.com, but also three specific URLs for FAQ’s. (think-you-have-bed-bugs, advice-on-getting treatment, how-do-I-protect my bed).
The overall tone was set by the first speaker, a Senior Health Inspector/toxicologist, with the first slides “Got bedbugs? Act immediately. No time for blame.” There were leaders from the Allston Brighton Community Development group that is so pro-active about bedbugs, and someone from Somerville who was also a great community activist. These were caring, sharp people who are out in the municipal trenches!
One presentation at the conference was a live demonstration of a home inspection. They had a mattress and box spring right there on the stage and inspected it. They felt an inspection should take a minimum of an hour and that the inspector should look at the underside of your box spring. Though they felt that with current practices, mattresses could be bagged and furniture treated, but they said that box springs frequently had to be discarded.
There was a lively one-hour question period with a panel of savvy inspectors and local PCOs (which I learned can also be called PMPs now). They knew their stuff. They were very much into people not moving when they had bedbugs. They said they had a case where a unit was so infested the two tenants were moved into a hotel. The tenants moved with only their medications and the clothes they had on. In three days there was evidence these tenants had taken bedbugs with them to the hotel! So they said unless you shower, put new clothes on, and take absolutely **nothing** with you, there is a chance you can take bedbugs with you. (My note: I wonder if bedbugs were transported in shoes or a wallet or the cuff of a pant leg or something?)
The PCOs were fan of using hair dryers when one inspects. Not to kill bedbugs, though they did agree you might be able to kill a bedbug if you a hair dryer up close to it on very high for 5 minutes or more — they used hair dryers as “an inspectional tool” to test to see where bedbugs were when they went into an apartment. They said bedbugs were frequently in clock radios by the bed, and you could aim a hot hair dryer at something like a clock radio and the heat would make the bedbugs come out of the unit.
Though they showed various pesticides, including SteriFab, which they said was 90% alcohol and a contact killer. They said pretty much anything could kill bedbugs on contact, but the problem was you rarely saw bedbugs and you wanted something that would kill the ones you didn’t see.
They were against preventive spraying and said it did nothing. They said preventive inspections were what you should do, and stressed education of everyone, e.g., how hotels had trained housekeeping to look for bedbugs.
In the afternoon there was a panel of three lawyers. The lawyers stressed cooperation and not having an adversarial relationship with the landlord. They said bedbug cases the victims were usually awarded punitive damages of 3 to 7 times the cost incurred, plus legal fees which can be high. They talked of a case where the punitive damages were $26,000 and the legal fees were $25,000, so the landlord had to pay a lot.
In Massachusetts, a landlord who has more than a certain number of tenants (not a small landlord who is living in a 3-family house with the tenants) is considered as running a business and you can go against the landlord as a business using the Consumer Protection Act. They refer to it as 93A, and you have to start with a “93A demand letter.” There were many grey areas, such as who paid if tenants needed to have furniture replaced or if they had to have alternative housing. The panel of lawyers thought the landlord should not only pay for the extermination, repeated ones, but also for the cleaning of the clothes. They said a landlord could not refuse to rent to you if you had bedbugs because it would be discriminatory.
All in all, I really enjoyed the day. There was a lot of other information conveyed that I already knew so I didn’t refer to it here. I realized how I had learned so much from this blog already, but, even so, it was amazing to go to a day-long bedbug conference and learn even more. I particularly liked being surrounded by people who clearly know how serious the bedbug problem is and are educated and committed to addressing it. Great job.
Any errors in my interpretation of what was said at the conference are my own. They were the experts. I was just gratefully taking notes as I learned more at a day at “The College of Bedbug Knowledge.”
PS: There was some discussion of how pets can have bedbugs. They even showed a slide with a parakeet. I know my parakeets were bitten by bedbugs, and it brought a tear to my eye and I was touched, not just because of my screen name here.