Hotel operators, public-health officials and leaders of an industry spawned to combat bedbugs urged tighter U.S. regulations and development of effective pesticides during the second National Bed Bug Summit.
“It remains a huge concern,” said Joseph McInerny, chief executive officer of the American Hotel and Lodging Association at the two-day conference in Washington that ends today. Housekeeping and maintenance staff are the “first line of defense,” spotting speckles of blood that signal rooms may be closed for weeks by an infestation, he said yesterday.
Bedbugs -- wingless insects that feed on the blood of sleeping animals -- invaded stores of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Victoria’s Secret and Nike Inc.’s Niketown in New York City last year as well as hotels, offices and homes.
The insects can cause reactions through bites, as well as blister-like skin infections and, in rare cases, asthma and anaphylactic shock, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“2010 was definitely the year of the bedbug,” Natalie Raben, marketing director of M&M Environmental, a New York pest-management company said at the conference.
The Environmental Protection Agency convened the meeting as New York City Council members urged the agency to set regulations for better use of insecticides.
“Given the difficulty of exterminating bedbugs, we are calling upon” the EPA “to conduct further research and development of effective pesticides,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn wrote in a Jan. 31 letter to the EPA with fellow members.
Abercrombie & Fitch, the teen apparel retailer, in July temporarily closed its South Street Seaport store in New York to eliminate bedbugs. Time Warner Inc. in August said it treated its offices at Columbus Circle after bedbugs were found “in a small contained area.”
Commercial pest-control products may be insufficient to kill the bugs, said Liza Fleeson, program manager of consumer protection for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“I wish we could just tell bedbugs that ‘you are not allowed in this state’ and regulate them out,” she said.