Bedbug Issue Proving Difficult to Regulate
The Henderson Press
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Like cheating on a spouse or embezzling company funds, likewise,
almost everybody shies away from recognizing or even talking about
the bedbug problem in Southern Nevada.
Infestations are more common than might be imagined, and
devastating economic impacts would occur in the local hospitality
industry if a trend in unmanaged outbreaks became widespread
knowledge and nobody - the Southern Nevada Health District nor the
mattress, bedding and furniture industries - can come to grips with
regulations aimed at eradicating Cimex lectularius.
The bug itself is easily defined - they're the size and color of
an apple seed, will hide in suitcases, boxes and shoes to be near a
food supply, and are nocturnal creatures that come out at night for
a blood meal.
They not only are found in mattresses and headboards, but behind
baseboards, electrical switch plates, picture frames, wallpaper,
upholstery and in furniture crevices.
What's not so easily defined is the refinement of current health
district regulations, originally adopted in 2007, that keep bugging
those who are subject to them.
Such was the case at the April health district board meeting,
where proposed amendments to the regulations drew so much criticism
from frustrated mattress, bedding and furniture owners and their
attorneys that adoption of the amendments was postponed until
August for further industry input.
"We need paved road fencing to prevent debris? We're not in that
business," Jack Campbell, manager of Walker Furniture, told the
board as he read from a laundry list of health district permit
requirements that included regulations for lighting and
"That's unrelated to bedbugs, I'd say," he concluded.
Currently, nonprofit organizations such as Goodwill Industries
and the Salvation Army are exempt from any regulations governing
the sale of used mattresses, bedding or furniture.
"We shouldn't be exempting anyone," Southern Nevada Health
District Board Member and County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani
said. "Maybe we shouldn't even allow them to accept them."
Originally, the only sanitization method allowed was a dry heat
treatment that required temperatures of 230 degrees to "bake" and
kill bedbugs, but that temperature was lowered to 125 degrees in
Still, store owners say the method is financially
Greg Phillips, owner of Phillips Furniture in Henderson, said he
looked at installing a dry heat oven system for sanitizing used
mattresses he accepts, but discovered it would cost him $230,000 to
sanitize that way, and the few mattresses he gets wouldn't pay for
In the absence of a sanitization method, Phillips ships his used
mattresses to a California company that has a Clark County health
"My feelings on which method they should use is they're getting
too complicated," Phillips said. "They're trying to cover all the
bases and not trying to solve their problem."
The proposed amendments come at a time that reports of bedbug
infestations are exploding worldwide.
"The results of our 2010 Comprehensive Global Bed Bug Study
suggest that we are on the threshold of a bedbug pandemic, not just
in the United States, but around the world," Missy Henriksen, vice
president of public affairs for the National Pest Management
Association, said in a published report.
Some 95 percent of the association's 1,000 U.S. and
international pest management company respondents indicated in the
2010 study their company has encountered a bedbug infestation in
the past year. Prior to 2000, that number was only 25 percent.
Some 67 percent of the respondents reported treating bed bug
infestations in hotels and motels.
The major cause of greater infestations is increased mobility of
infected goods and persons.
"Travelers create more of an opportunity to bring things in,"
Dwight Blackburn, owner of Blackburn Pest Control in Henderson
for 28 years, said the problem here exists, but not as badly as
"Today, it's the number one pest problem in the country," he
said. "Locally, though, hotels have been on top of things. Being
proactive is the reason why it's not as bad here as it is in other
Still, a Web site called The Bedbug Registry
(bedbugregistry.com) shows in the past five years that Nevada has
had 170 bedbug reports, with 69 in Las Vegas hotels and motels.
Also, 15 apartment buildings reportedly had infestations.
The reports are unconfirmed by any source and may be skewed by