New Yorkers have long been disappointed by our City Council to effectively address the bed bug epidemic in their city. In January 2006, Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents Manhattan's Upper East Side, announced plans to introduce a bill which if approved would request the City ban the sale reconditioned mattresses and ban new mattresses from from being transported next to new ones and establish a Bed Bug Task Force. Her plans were to introduce this into the Council's Consumer Affairs Committee, which she does by mid-February, where it sits in the Committee for months. A spokeperson for Brewer, who promised to put me on a bed bug bill e-mail list, stated that her office wanted to hold a public hearing on the issue before introducing the bill into the Health Committee to gather public testimony that will help her case when she tries to convince Committee members to vote for it. The whole January announcement got her face in the paper, but she sure didn't do anything for New Yorkers suffering from bed bugs.
The Consumer Affairs Committee finally holds a hearing in September 2006. The hearing got a lot of press, especially for Brewer, but it didn't get much more else done for those New Yorkers living with bed bugs and those yet to have them in their homes. In fact, the Bed Bug bill died in committee.
Last week I received an update e-mail from Brewer's office, informing me of her latest move to boldly stand for nothing: On April 29, Councilwoman Brewer wrote a letter to the New York State Department of State to create regulations on how businesses can sanitize used mattresses before reselling them. Here's the letter in its entirety.
April 29, 2008
Ms. Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez
Secretary of State
Department of State
41 State Street
Albany, NY 12231-0001
Dear Secretary Cortés-Vázquez:
New York City is trying to find a way to eradicate the bed bug epidemic, and as part of this effort, I would like to obtain more information about rules regarding reconditioned mattresses. Specifically, I would like to be informed about state guidelines for the sterilization process for used bedding. In 1996, the State Legislature passed State Law Article 25A, Section 385, but it seems that rules were not promulgated regarding enforcement of that law by the Department of State or the Department of Health. The law stipulates that these standards are to be used to deem mattresses acceptable for re-sale throughout the state.
We are drafting a Resolution in the Council to request that the Department of State pass such regulations. Many reconditioned mattresses are currently sold without much "reconditioning"; they are simply covered with a new layer of cloth. As this does not sanitize them, bedbugs can continue to live within the newly purchased mattresses. Any guidance on the rules would be helpful, especially any mandatory processes for sanitization before selling the reconditioned mattress.
A female bed bug can lay five eggs a day, and over five hundred in her lifetime. These insects bite people as they sleep, causing inflammation to the skin, welts, and itching. They also spread into wall crevices, window and doorframes, electrical boxes, floor cracks, baseboards, furniture, and wall-to-wall carpeting.
People who buy or use second hand mattresses, including families, the elderly and managers of low cost hotels, could end up sleeping on a mattress that is contaminated. Commercial retailers who sell reconditioned mattresses inadvertently victimize these individuals, who then find themselves with the additional economic hardship of hiring professional exterminating services. These mattresses act as nesting places, and are conduits for bedbugs to live and grow. The rising cost of fighting bed bugs impacts all sectors of New York City’s social and commercial life.
If you have any questions, please contact me, or my Chief of Staff, Shula Warren, at (212) 788-6975. I look forward to your response.
Gale A. Brewer***
She then included a link from Dateline NBC's latest show, "Bed bugs living in new or refurbished mattress".
People who are familiar with my other blog know I am a libertarian and do not want government interfering in private affairs, especially in dealing with local business. This is a fine example of why the government should really not get involved in this and many other issues. The politicians pretend to care, hold meetings that go nowhere and lead to nothing. They take forever to address local issues, especially something as serious as bed bugs.
I think the private sector has done far more than the government to help the public. I give credit to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for creating their bed bug pamphlet to better inform New Yorkers about bed bugs, but it really didn't contain any information that most of us weren't already aware of. Information we already got from non-government sources like the pest control industry and various universities and media outlets. Some retailers have solved the problem by selling only used mattresses and completely sealing new mattresses in tough plastic wrapping.
So I really do think the private sector did more to help consumers than the government. Perhaps they did it in self-interest (the pest control industry informed New Yorkers to make them realize how badly they need to hire an exterminator, and retailers like Sleepy's refused to sell used mattresses at all in order to win customers over from those retailers who sell refurbished mattresses.), but they got the job done, without any help at all from our lame-duck City Council and local government. Unfortunately, the only thing New York City government excels at is arresting people for marijuana; according to the New York City Bar Association, for every white person arrested on marijuana charges, nine people of color are arrested for the same charges.
I believe that if this bed bug problem is ever solved, it will only be done by the private sector, and not by the government. If the government really gave a damn about eradicating bed bugs the only helpful it could ever do is repeal the ban on DDT and at the very least allow it be be researched in an unbiased manner to test its effectiveness of bed bugs and look for any serious side effects of DDT exposure to plants, animals and humans.