Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More bedbugs are biting in Cincinnati

Associated Press
CIMEX LECTULARIUS: Adult bedbugs live on blood — human and animal — and lay nearly invisible eggs.

More bedbugs are biting in Cincinnati

Associated Press
CIMEX LECTULARIUS: Adult bedbugs live on blood — human and animal — and lay nearly invisible eggs.
The biting insects, which can live in mattresses and wall cracks, led to hundreds of complaints in the city last year. It's hard to determine the national scope of the problem.
By P.J. Huffstutter
January 4, 2009
Reporting from Cincinnati -- In this Ohio city, it seems, it really is tough to stop the bedbugs from biting.

When complaints about the bloodsucking insects first trickled in to Cincinnati's public health department three years ago, officials assumed it was an anomaly -- or perhaps the overactive imagination of a bug-phobic public. After all, Cimex lectularius had all but vanished here by the 1950s because of the frequent use of DDT and other now-banned pesticides.

But that trickle of complaints has grown into a flood: A recent public survey found that 1 in every 6 people here has had a run-in with the biting bugs in the last 12 months.

Dozens of fire stations in Cincinnati have had to dump furniture or have their living quarters exterminated because firefighters unknowingly brought the eggs in on their boots or pant legs. Assisted-living complexes have spent tens of thousands of dollars on pest-control companies because, the thinking goes, visitors may have carried in the bugs on their purses or bags.

City health department officials said they now receive more frantic calls about the insects than about mice, rats and cockroaches combined.

If things continue, "we won't be able to keep up with the requests for inspections," said Camille Jones, assistant Cincinnati health commissioner and member of a city-county bedbug task force. "It's a problem that we expect to only get worse."

Cincinnati is not alone in its itchy woes. Reports of a welt-covered public are coming in from college campuses, high-end hotels and even movie theaters across the country.

University officials at Texas A&M in College Station have flown in bedbug-sniffing dogs to root out the insects. The University of Florida in Gainesville reportedly has spent tens of thousands of dollars to clear dorm rooms and campus apartments of infestations.

In New York, there were 8,830 complaints about bedbugs in fiscal 2008, which ended June 30, up from 1,839 in 2005, according to the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The bugs have shown up in unexpected places: An executive with Fox News told the New York Times that the Manhattan newsroom had to be exterminated for bedbugs and have its furniture replaced after an employee tracked the insects in from home.

Task forces aimed at eradicating the bugs and educating the public have been established in numerous states -- including Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Ohio.

In California, the bugs have become such a problem that the state's Department of Public Health started surveying local public health agencies in 2007 to get a handle on the scope of the infestation. Among the reasons cited for the return of the bugs: the DDT ban and an increase in international travel.

Often mistaken for ticks, adult bedbugs are about a quarter-inch long and reddish-brown. They are active mostly at night, and their bites can leave itchy welts on the skin.

During the daytime, they tend to hide near places where people sleep -- such as the seams of mattresses -- or in wall cracks or beneath furniture. The eggs are white, sticky and about the size of a speck of dust, so people can unknowingly spread them from room to room or even across town.

"Set a bag down on the carpet, or walk through an infested area, and it's almost impossible to tell that you're walking out with shoes or a bag that has bedbug eggs stuck to them," Jones said.

The bugs are not easy to kill. Most over-the-counter insecticides won't work, and clearing up the problem can take several treatments from a professional exterminator.

There's also a social stigma associated with the insect, but unlike some other vermin, bedbugs are attracted to blood -- such as a human's or an animal's -- not to garbage.

Renee Corea has battled the bugs in her New York apartment for months but shies away from talking to friends about the details.

"My home is clean. It's always been clean," said Corea, who helps run the online support and policy advocacy group newyorkvsbedbugs.org. "I have lost a lot of belongings because of this. The whole experience was emotionally draining and exhausting. It still is."

But figuring out the extent of the problem nationwide is difficult, entomologists say.

Part of the problem is that cash-strapped cities don't see the insect as a public-health priority. Unlike cockroaches, fleas and mosquitoes, bedbugs aren't known as disease carriers.

"Anyone can be at risk," said Greg Kesterman, director of environmental health for the Hamilton County public health agency, which includes Cincinnati.

Kesterman noted that the county received two complaints about bedbugs in 2003 and nearly 300 in 2008.

"This is not only an urban concern," Kesterman said. "This is everywhere."


EPA 'Cow Tax' Could Charge $175 per Dairy Cow to Curb Greenhouse Gases

Call this one of the newest and innovative ways your government has come up with to battle greenhouse gas emissions.

Indirectly it could be considered a cheeseburger tax, but one of the suggestions offered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) for regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act is to levy a tax on livestock.

The ANPR, released early this year, would give the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas for not only greenhouse gas from manmade sources like transportation and industry, but also “stationary” sources which would include livestock.

The New York Farm Bureau assigned a price tag to the cost of greenhouse gas regulation by the EPA in a release last month.

“The tax for dairy cows could be $175 per cow, and $87.50 per head of beef cattle. The tax on hogs would upwards of $20 per hog,” the release said. “Any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs would have to obtain permits.”

Kate Galbraith, correspondent for The New York Times, noted on the Times’ “Green Inc.” blog that such a “proposal is far from being enacted” and that the “hysteria may be premature.”

But Rick Krause, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau, warned it’s certainly feasible – especially based on the rhetoric of President-elect Barack Obama and the use of the EPA to combat global warming. Such action by an Obama administration would take an act of Congress for livestock to be exempt.

“The new president has been on record as saying that he really supports regulating greenhouse gases out of the Clean Air Act,” Krause said to the Business & Media Institute. “So, we really have to keep an eye on it. Legislation would really be the only way to exempt it at this point – the cow tax.”

Krause said it is difficult to quantify the cost that might be passed directly to the consumer by farmers from the legislation, but predicted it would mean higher costs for dairy production.

“It’s hard to figure what it would do to consumer prices since farmers, unlike other industries, really can’t pass their cost along directly like utilities and things do,” “About the only thing we could realistically come up, in terms of any of this stuff – it would add between 7 and 8 cents per gallon of milk costs to farmers. So it would cost them 7 or 8 cents more to produce a gallon of milk.”

Even the Department of Agriculture warned the EPA that smaller farms and ranches would have difficulty with limits as much as 100 tons annually on emissions:

“If GHG emissions from agricultural sources are regulated under the CAA, numerous farming operations that currently are not subject to the costly and time-consuming Title V permitting process would, for the first time, become covered entities. Even very small agricultural operations would meet a 100-tons-per-year emissions threshold. For example, dairy facilities with over 25 cows, beef cattle operations of over 50 cattle, swine operations with over 200 hogs, and farms with over 500 acres of corn may need to get a Title V permit. It is neither efficient nor practical to require permitting and reporting of GHG emissions from farms of this size. Excluding only the 200,000 largest commercial farms, our agricultural landscape is comprised of 1.9 million farms with an average value of production of $25,589 on 271 acres. These operations simply could not bear the regulatory compliance costs that would be involved.”

Horse runs into movie theater

BOLDON, England, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Witnesses said an escaped farm horse shocked film-goers when it ran through the automatic doors of a Boldon, England, cinema.

A witness said the horse, one of three that had escaped from a farm, was frightened by a little girl blowing a raspberry outside of the Cineworld complex Dec. 19 and ran straight for the cinema entrance, The Sun reported Monday.

"The horse noticed the cinema and headed towards us, and when it got close, the automatic doors opened and in it came," the witness said. "It was a bit of a surprise -- the general public don't expect to see a horse in the middle of a cinema foyer -- but it was all over in 20 seconds."

Authorities said the horse was captured safely and no one was hurt.

"It's certainly the first time I have heard of this happening and I have worked in cinemas for six years," a Cineworld spokesman said.