SEATTLE -- The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) describes it as their number one pest issue - bedbugs.
They constantly treat units for a bedbug infestion that began on the East Coast but has now invaded every corner of the country. Sometimes SHA workers say they find tenants have already tried to take care of the problem on their own with powerful and toxic chemicals.
"I would say at least 20 or 30 times," said Bill Petersen, who coordinates SHA's pest management. "We run into it quite frequently."
Sometimes people use powerful over the counter household products that should not be used in beds or furniture where people can inhale or absorb the chemicals through their skin, or worse, they try outdoor petsicides that should never be used indoors.
The problem is so widespread that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued an official Consumer Alert warning consumers to avoid such practices.
The statement reads, "Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bedbugs can make you, your family, and your pets sick. It can also make your home unsafe to live in – and may not solve the bedbug problem. "
Experts are using several techniques to treat bedbugs including non-toxic, organic and heat methods that bring the temperature of infested homes so high it kills the bugs and their eggs. They say they understand people get so creeped out by bedbugs that they'll try anything to get rid of them, but say the all out chemical warfare approach can put the entire household or apartment complex at risk.
For more information:
National Pesticide Information Center: http://www.npic.orst.edu/
Centers for Disease Control - Bed Bugs: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/Topics/bedbugs.htm
Biting and stinging bugs - Washington Dept. of Health: http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/Zoo/bitingbugs.html
Preventing and getting rid of bed bugs safely - New York City: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-guide.pdf
Getting rid of bed bugs - City of Cincinnati: http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/health/downloads/health_pdf11068.pdf
MayoClinic - Bedbugs: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bedbugs/DS00663