Bedbug Invasions on the Rise in New York City Schools

Published March 10, 2011

Bedbug invasions are on the rise in New York City public schools, with 1,700 confirmed cases during the past year, according to the latest reports from the New York City Department of Education (DOE). 

City Taking Action
Marge Feinberg, spokesperson for the DOE, says the city is being transparent about all bedbug cases reported.

“Every time we find a single bedbug, we are required to report it,” Feinberg said.

To help deal with bedbugs, DOE has provided city schools with “The Bed Bug Information Kit,” which includes instructions on how to identify bedbugs, treat for them, minimize the likelihood of bedbug infestations, and work with city officials on other bedbug-related matters.

New York City Not Alone
Bedbug populations have resurged, and “they’ve done so dramatically,” says Richard Pollack, founder of IdentifyUS, a resource that offers expert identification of bedbugs, lice, and ticks.

“Bedbugs have become resurgent, but it’s not something New York City has a monopoly on. There’s probably not a single community anywhere in North American that has not had a bedbug incident recently,” Pollack said.

Bedbugs find their way into the schools on their host’s personal belongings, such as clothing, book bags, briefcases, and purses. Bedbug transfer can happen “on any given day,” said Pollack.

Effective Treatments Ignored
Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, points out bedbugs can be more than just a nuisance.

“Bedbugs create itchy, uncomfortable welts in addition to the stress and mental anguish from knowing bugs are feeding on us at night, and apparently now on our kids at school,” Logomasini said.

Much debate now surrounds the best techniques to rid private and public buildings from bedbugs.

“Bedbugs were virtually eliminated from the United States by the use of the pesticide DDT, a product that is less toxic to humans than most pesticides we use today,” Logomasini notes.

Pollack, while expressing concern about possible health effects of  DDT, added, “until we have new products that truly work as well as some of the old ones did in the past, then maybe it’d make sense to examine some of the chemicals in other products that have been taken off the market and ask whether there is now a rationale, at least for the short term, to bring some of them back.”

“It is not surprising that schools are having problems with bedbugs and other pests, given recent trends and regulations that limit chemical use for controlling such pests, and New Yorkers can expect things to get worse since it banned pesticide use in schools last year. Schools are now required to phase out pesticide use,” said Logomasini.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.