The Sweet Dreams Project seems like a nice idea: the Daily News reports that an Astoria businessman, Marcos Maldonado, is raising money to donate new mattresses to kids in Queens, to replace those “infected” with bed bugs:
A bedbug epidemic in her Astoria apartment building forced Ellie Maldonado, 42, to discard her mattress last year.
Now, her brother Marcos Maldonado is spearheading an effort to raise money to replace the infected mattresses of his neighbors living in the Astoria Houses. He has named the project Sweet Dreams.
“I named it this because I want the kids to have sweet dreams as they sleep,” said Maldonado, 43, who has lived in Astoria for 16 years and is the owner of M&D Decorators on Astoria Blvd.
As I said, it’s a lovely idea, and very generous. Mr. Maldonado’s heart is in the right place, and he clearly knows firsthand how much bed bugs can mess up someone’s life and home.
However, and I hate to be a wet blanket (no pun intended), but I am concerned this program may only provide a temporary respite from bed bugs. Discarding bed bug-infested mattresses does not usually eliminate bed bugs from the home. In most cases, the room itself is also infested, along with sofas and other items.
It can give people a false sense of security. Bed bug bites may be lessened or eliminated for a while. But the bed bugs may still be present in smaller numbers, and can quickly bounce back.
What’s more, tossing out infested mattresses isn’t recommended by bed bug experts in most cases. Sealed mattress encasements tested to keep bed bugs out (or in this case, in) allow the mattress to be used and prevent a discarded mattress from going on to infest someone else’s home.
It’s essential that the apartment and the neighboring apartments are all bed bug-free, or these new mattresses will quickly become infested too.
Maldonado is donating mattresses to residents of NYCHA apartments, and the city seems pleased:
Maldonado hopes to establish a permanent, registered nonprofit organization to provide mattresses to families in the Ravenswood and Queensbridge houses next, he said.
City Housing Authority officials lauded Maldonado’s work.
“NYCHA applauds community involvement where community members want to help each other improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods,” a spokeswoman said in a written statement.
What isn’t mentioned outright in this article is the fact that it’s the NYCHA’s responsibility to eliminate bed bug infestations from NYCHA apartments.
I hope that their procedures involve inspecting all adjoining units (top, bottom, and all sides) when a complaint is made. I am concerned this is not so, since the fact sheet linked above says nothing about neighbors being inspected.
To their credit, the NYCHA does tell tenants to destroy any items which must be discarded. But my experience is most people don’t research such instructions before discarding things.
And destroying alone is not enough: mattresses should also be sealed to prevent spreading bed bugs while they await collection by the sanitation dept. or by trash-pickers.
I hope the NYCHA is also educating tenants about the signs of bed bugs, which can be quite subtle.
And I hope Mr. Maldonado will donate good mattress encasements for use with the donated mattresses.