FTC Warns: Ineffective Bed Bug Treatments Can Take a Bite Out of Consumers' Wallets
With the resurgence of bed bugs in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission urges consumers to be cautious when shopping for products that are touted as remedies or ways of preventing bed bug infestations.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that an increasing number of marketers are making unrealistic claims about their abilities to control or eradicate bed bugs.
The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, offers these tips to consumers who think they might have a bed bug problem:
General Information on Bed Bugs
Bed bugs can come into homes on or inside luggage, furniture, bedding, or clothing.
Inside homes, bed bugs can hide in small cracks and crevices, such as behind a bed headboard, in the seams and tufts of a mattress, inside a box spring, along the cracks of a wall’s baseboard, behind wallpaper, and in clutter.
Bed bugs do not transmit diseases.
While they typically feed on blood every five to 10 days – leaving red, itchy welts – bed bugs can live for a year or more without eating. They also can survive temperatures ranging from almost freezing to almost 113 degrees.
Bed bugs leave feces about this big • on mattresses, box springs, and other furniture. The feces may bleed on fabric like a felt-tip marker.
When bed bugs are crushed, they leave rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses.
Bed bug eggs and eggshells are tiny (about 1 mm) and white.
Live bed bugs have flat bodies, antennae, and small eyes, and are visible to the naked eye. But many other bugs may look like them, so getting an expert’s identification is key.
Treating Bed Bug Infestations
Bed bugs can be controlled through a combination of techniques known as integrated pest management, or IPM. An environmentally sensitive approach, IPM includes prevention, monitoring, and limited use of chemical pesticides.
Some populations of bed bugs have developed resistance to common pesticides, making some sprays ineffective. Alternative treatments include heat and steam. Bedding, clothing, and electronic items should never be treated with pesticides, but can be treated with heat.
Consumers who wish to control bed bugs themselves should consult the EPA for products that meet their needs. Consumers should not attempt to control bed bugs inside their homes with products that are made for outdoor use. They should avoid bombs and foggers, and should not spray pesticides in areas occupied by children or pets, or on top of mattresses, sofas, or other upholstered furniture.
The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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