2007-04-25 / Features

Gianaris' Bedbug Legislation Is Out Of Committee

Legislation by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) requiring notice of bedbug infestations to all parents at an affected school took a step towards becoming a law last week when it was reported favorably from the Assembly Education Committee. The Gianaris proposal would require the city Department of Education to institute a mandatory policy notifying all parents whose children attend a bedbuginfested school of the infestation and providing them with prevention information.

"Today, we are one step closer to restoring some sanity to this school health policy," Gianaris said. "Knowledge is our best weapon to keep the bedbug problem in our schools from spreading further and this legislation would provide crucial information to concerned parents."

The current Department of Education policy does not require such notification and handles each case individually. Gianaris introduced his bill after the Department of Education Office of School Health refused to voluntarily change its policy in response to a written request from Gianaris.

Western Queens has seen a surge in bedbug cases in its schools, with 11 elementary and middle schools in District 30 alone reporting incidents. Throughout the entire city, bedbug cases have almost doubled in the last three months alone, increasing from 34 cases at 24 schools to 72 cases at 43 schools during that time. Though health officials state that bedbugs do not pose serious health risks, they do leave itchy, red marks on the skin and bring a tremendous cost burden to residents due to difficulties associated with extermination. Bedbugs usually dwell in mattresses but can also be found under carpets, in walls and in other furniture around the home.

Gianaris added: "For some reason, bedbugs have hit Western Queens schools particularly hard. My plan begins our efforts to fight back."

In recent years, bedbugs have become a much larger problem throughout New York City, affecting not just school communities. They reproduce rapidly and are easily transferable from one person to another. Once a bedbug is found, it should be dealt with immediately to prevent further infestation.

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