The New York State Senate passed S7316b, the mattress bill sponsored by Senator José Peralta (D-Queens) on Monday, June 15th, 2010. The bill first appeared as A7691, sponsored by Assembly Member Nelson Castro (District 86). (Here’s Peralta’s press release on the legislation.)
BILL NUMBER: S7316B
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the general business law, in relation to articles of bedding
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF THE BILL: This bill addresses the growing concerns regarding infestations of bedbugs.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: This bill amends Article 25 (Articles of Bedding) of the general business law.
Section 383 eliminates the exception for “new” that permitted bedding that was brought back to the sales location within thirty-days to still be classified as “new.” The definition of “used” is amended and clarified.
Section 385 requires the additional disclosure on the mandated label requirement for information regarding the manner of sanitization and chemicals used for such cleansing.
Section 385-b details how used bedding is transported, stored or sold.
Section 387 will require annual inspections of bedding manufacturers.
Section 389-a amends the labeling requirement to require notice that the bedding is used and that such material has been sanitized.
Section 389-c institutes penalties including the cost of the mattress, costs for sanitizing said mattress and medical expenses.
It seems like a minor improvement over prior regulations in New York State. However, I am so not in love with this bill.
The biggest problem hinges on the idea of sanitizing mattresses:
S 385-B. Transport, storage and sale of used bedding. No used bedding shall be transported, stored or sold with new bedding unless the used bedding has been: sanitized using a method approved by the department of health that is intended to kill bedbugs, dust mites, other insects, molds, fungi, germs or other organisms, and to remove soil, dust mite and insect feces, allergens, and other contaminants; or enclosed in plastic, polyethylene film or similar material designed to prevent the passage of contaminants.
Those who know bed bugs know that “sanitizing” mattresses and box springs to kill all bed bugs and eggs is not an easy proposition.
My problem with this bill is that I lack confidence in the department of health: will they really require mattress refurbishers to use a treatment method that will absolutely and without a doubt kill all bed bugs and eggs present?
I hope that I am being overly pessimistic, but I fear I am not.
There were already rules about “sanitizing” mattresses for resale. This 2008 article from Bedbugger and this 2008 video from Fox 5 in New York (dead link removed 4/14) suggest how unhelpful they were, since mattress resellers were not given guidelines on what exactly would “sanitize” a mattress.
We have heard in the past that sprays like SteriFab have been used by those in the used furniture trade to attempt to kill bed bugs. The mattress guy in the Fox video linked above appears to be brandishing a jug of this product. So is the NYC upholsterer who schpritzes Pearl Gluck’s heirloom Hungarian divan in the 2004 film Divan.
Alvaro Romero, Michael F. Potter and Kenneth F. Haynes note in their 2007 PCT article, Insecticide-Resistant Bed Bugs: Implications for the Industry,
Sterifab and Bedlam provide rapid kill of both susceptible and resistant bed bugs when insects are sprayed directly, but have diminished effects after drying on a surface — especially against resistant populations since both products contain a pyrethroid (phenothrin).
While there is certainly value in such a product, it would be difficult in many cases to spray all bed bugs directly. And one could never be certain of having done so. And so having applied such a product, one cannot be certain that all bed bugs have been killed. I am concerned that the Department of Health will simply require spraying of some kind, which is not 100% reliable.
Giving resellers the option instead of encasing the mattress or box springs “in plastic, polyethylene film or similar material designed to prevent the passage of contaminants,” as this bill suggests, might seem like a workable solution. However, think about how often tears or holes appear in such materials.
People who purchase encasements should monitor them for such tears, but consumers purchasing a mattress encased by the refurbisher may not even be aware that bed bugs could be living inside it. And most bed bug encasements are not designed for the mattress/box springs to be moved around. Any covering used would have to be extremely sturdy to survive transportation intact.
If the encasing material applied by resellers can be torn or pricked, by a moving crew dragging it on concrete, or a cat poking its nails into the material, or a child playing with a ballpoint pen, then households and buildings will continue to be infested by these used furnishings.
One sanitizing method which should work very well if applied correctly is heat treatment. Heat treatment methods are an exact science. Mattress refurbishers would need the proper equipment, would need to know how to use it properly, and would need to be sure they were raising the temperature at the core of the item(s) to the appropriate level, and maintaining this temperature for a specific period of time.
If the state gives mattress refurbishers a cheaper or easier option — like spraying a spray, or slapping on a plastic cover — they are going to take this instead, even if it is not a reliable option.
And I am afraid to say, if that is the outcome, then this bill is not going to solve the problem of people getting bed bugs from used mattresses in New York State.
We don’t know yet what guidelines the Department of Health will be giving resellers about “approved methods” for killing bed bugs, and I hope to hear more about this soon.
I am glad the bill requires full disclosure about the sanitizing methods and chemicals used, but I fear most New Yorkers won’t know enough to evaluate them.
I am also glad that the bill seems to have gotten politicians on a bed bug bandwagon. (Daily News blogger Celeste Katz claims Senator Bill Perkins (D-Man.) was trying to take credit for the bill.) However, enthusiasm for the issue is not enough; politicians would do well to get more input from entomologists on these bills. I worry that they did not do so with this bill.
We need laws to better help us prevent and fight bed bug infestations. Bed bug legislation which isn’t well thought out is a problem.