Reg Ayre of Toronto Public Health: bed bugs a “health concern,” not a “health hazard”

by nobugsonme on January 15, 2008 · 5 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs and health, how to get rid of bed bugs, Joe Fiorito, ontario, public health, toronto, Toronto Public Health

In some cities, the housing department inspects for bed bugs. In others, it’s public health. Toronto Public Health apparently has jurisdiction over inspections for bed bugs in the city.

Joe Fiorito of Toronto’s The Star spoke with Reg Ayre of Toronto Public Health about why that body can’t legally class bed bugs as a health “hazard”:

Ayre’s office is downtown. He is a good guy in a hard job. He got right to the point. “Can we talk about what a health hazard is?” Sure, why not?

“We’re talking about a legal definition, in terms of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. It has to be a condition that would affect everyone in the community.”

Like SARS?

He said, “Bedbugs aren’t, under the act, a hazard. But Public Health considers that they are a concern.”

I suspect the concept of concern offers little comfort to the woman in social housing whose arm swelled from bites and who had an epileptic seizure after treatment.

Nor is concern any help to the man who was so bothered by bites that he washed his body with gasoline – and do not even think that is a good thing to do.

Nor does concern ease the pain of the father who had to bring his young son to the emergency room one day last November, because the boy’s bites were so bad.

Ayre said, “All the definition does is allow us to serve orders. But bedbugs is an issue where we don’t go the legal route.”

I cannot count the people I know who wish we could go the legal route. Because I think Toronto is Vancouver waiting to happen.

At least beautiful, bedbugged Vancouver has the motivation of the coming Olympics to spark a cleanup. Our motivation?

Itch, scratch.

I think I understand TPH’s distinction between health hazards and health concerns. But is the assessment that bed bugs would not “affect everyone in the community” because they would never infest everyone at once? Or because some people will be bitten and show no reaction to bites (as many as 50%, some experts say)? Or because, unlike SARS, the effects would not be as dire in the vast majority of cases? (Some do die due to bed bug bites, but it appears to be a very rare to have such a serious allergic reaction.)

From where I sit in New York City, I’d love to have my own city’s officials even admit bed bugs were a health concern.

But Fiorito is correct that the problem needs to be classified in such a way that agencies take care of it. If public health agencies can’t “go the legal route” in fighting bed bugs, can housing departments? Some agency needs to have some muscle when it comes to eliminating this problem.

You can read the rest of the article from The Star here.

1 fadumo May 24, 2008 at 11:30 pm

i have bug bed my house not sleeping time i go work.

2 nobugsonme May 25, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Hi fadumo,

I am sorry to hear that. I can definitely understand what it’s like–losing sleep over this.

I hope you are getting good treatment. If you need support or have questions, feel free to post on the forums–you will find many supportive readers there:

3 Mental Anguish February 16, 2009 at 1:22 pm

It appears that concerns for public health risk, regarding the bedbug problem, has neglected to consider the risk to mental health.
It has been my experience that the damage to mental health, is more serious than considered.
The problem is also compounded when money becomes an issue, and organizations such as the Salvation Army Shelter system, neglect to give a speedy and thorough effort to attacking the problem. (Claims of same day spraying are greatly exaggerated, and often take upto 3 weeks. When 1 room is sprayed adjoining rooms are not. Private room residents in the same facility are not even informed of the infestation in adjoining rooms. No offer is made to spray private rooms, When adjoining rooms are sprayed.)
Bedbugs are also found behind baseboards and under floor tiles, where spraying doesn’t always reach. This presents an extreme expense to landlords like the Salvation Army.
Private room residents often loose hundreds of dollors in personal belongings, because they can’t take them with them when they move out, for fear of spreading the problem. (You can’t effectively spray a Tv without destroying it. (It’s not just the bugs you have to kill, but the eggs as well.))
Definition of mental Anguish: Trying to explain to co-workers in the locker room, why a bedbug just dropped off your clothing!!! They hide everywhere……
Ya they are pretty much wrecking my life, not that it’s worth much to begin with…..

4 nobugsonme February 16, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Hi Mental Anguish,

We understand completely. Bed bugs cause extreme stress and mental anguish, especially when allowed to go on multiplying.

I disagree, though, that your life isn’t worth much to begin with. It IS. And you should not have to live with this.

Please come to the forums if you need support:

5 Sonia June 1, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Hi Everyone,

I moved in the apartment on 31st of may and at night after long day of shifting i start setting my bed for sleep and my daughters who is only 3 months old, i see something making its way on my mattres and guess what it was, yes bed bug. I never saw them before in my life. i couldn’t sleep all night. I kept thinking where they are coming from. My family checked around we couldn’t find the source. So in the morning we were talking and there was knock on the door from the previous tendent she was requesting if we can pass her mail to 6th floor as she was living on the 5th floor where we are living now. so my Father asks her why did you move 1 floor up, she said because of the bed bugs. She had that problem for 4 years, and the building management have called exterminator 3 times and the lady called them on her expense 2 times, Man she even showed me bloody dead bed bugs on the celling, so many of them. So as it turns out the building management knew the problem didn’t bother to tell us, and now our stuff is being attacked by them slowly but surely. there have been some bites on my family but i had to stay up all night and morning to look after my daughter who is just 3 months. When we presented this problem building management said we will give you other apartment, but dude we have to sleep on something and what grantee i have that it would not have same problem since people keep moving in the same building with bugs on them. It turns out this problem is in their both buildings, one of their associate said that he saw exterminator going on upper floors and some time on ground floors for bed bugs.
Now there isn’t any law for these kind of landlords, who are not only dumb but ignorant as well. If any of you have any kind of helping information for me please let me know.
Thank You

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