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Discarded furniture a bed bug haven

Burlington, Vermont - August 27, 2010

Burlington, like much of the nation, is stepping up its fight against bed bugs.

The childhood rhyme, "Sleep tight don't let the bed bugs bite," is becoming an unwanted reality for the city of Burlington.

"Right now Burlington is seeing a start to this problem and it's best to deal with it from a prevention standpoint. Last year the code enforcement office had just one report. This year we've had more than a dozen," said Bill Ward, Burlington's Director of Code Enforcement.

Bed bugs are small insects that feed on human blood. They aren't known to carry disease, but they will bite, and the psychological effects can be unnerving. But don't be fooled by their name, these critters aren't just found in mattresses and bedding. "They will hitch a ride on furniture. They will hitch a ride on luggage. They'll hitch a ride on clothing," said Tom Longstreth, Director of ReSource, a used furniture store.

Because these hitchhikers are most commonly transferred on used furniture, the City of Burlington is now stepping up its enforcement of abandoned furniture fines. "Well the ordinance as it relates to items on the green belt strictly prohibits furniture -- items specifically like the things you see beside me here. Where its furniture or mattresses, things shouldn't be left on the green belt to begin with. It's a 75-dollar fine," Ward said.

Stores like ReSource in Burlington will take your unwanted furniture. But before donations are accepted its staff roots out the bad furniture. Everything is inspected and rehabbed. Infested items are immediately discarded. "We have never had an infestation of bed bugs. It's something that we are very careful and we train our staff to watch out for," Longstreth said.

"I never really thought about it. But like since it was mentioned I did kind of have a concern," said Tyson Cyphers, a local college student.

So the real risk is not in buying used furniture, but in picking up discarded pieces on the side of the road. "I think it's really a risk area when people get furniture that's infested or they are worried and they chuck it out on the sidewalk, someone else drives by and thinks of great a free piece of furniture -- that's the real risk," Longstreth said.

"If it's out on the sidewalk, assume that it's already infested, because it's just not worth the risk," Ward said.

The city recommends putting on gloves, peeling back edges and checking in crevices when inspecting your furniture for bed bugs.

Jennifer Reading - WCAX News

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