Donation centers faced with bedbugs


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With the annual holiday season increase in charity and donations, local shelters and nonprofit organizations are concerned about bedbugs lurking in mattresses, blankets, and clothing.

The new Shelter House in Iowa City is more cautious about donations this year, following an outbreak of bedbugs over the summer, said Crissy Canganelli, the facility's executive director.

To get rid of the bedbugs, the shelter had to heat the rooms at 140 degrees for 10 hours, which cost a lot of money, she said. The infestation prompted management to change its policies concerning donations. Mattresses and furniture are no longer accepted, and any clothing, whether donated or brought in by the homeless, is thoroughly washed.

Additionally, all of the mattresses and pillows are now covered with rubber-lined, zipper-closed covers to prevent bedbugs from being spread, Canganelli said.

But homeless shelters are not the only place facing a problem.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency have acknowledged that bedbugs are spreading.

Such cities as New York and Chicago are at the top of the list of the top 15 most-infested cities, according to a study done by Terminix, a national pest-control company.

The Johnson County Department of Public Health does not track bedbugs complaints, said Director Doug Beardsley, adding people who call to report bedbugs were directed to an exterminator.

"Their complaints are anecdotal," Beardsley said. "We send any records of bedbugs to the environmental department."

Goodwill donation centers must follow a set of guidelines to prevent taking in or reselling items with bedbugs, said Dana Engelbert, vice president of marketing for Goodwill of the Heartland.

"If we were to see anything that does not meet our standards, we would not even let them take it out of the vehicle," she said.

Engelbert said she was not aware of any store or donation center having problems with bedbugs.

Besides the general pesticides used to rid homes and businesses of them, Dennis Shoemaker, the owner of D&R Pest Control in Iowa City, said customers can use heat treatment and other methods.

"There's generally three or four methods to get rid of anything," Shoemaker said.

He said his business had an increase in the number of calls complaining about bedbugs in the past year, but he did not know by how much the calls had increased.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has also reported an increase in complaints about bedbugs.

Though Canganelli couldn't recall the exact cost, the expensive heating used to rid the shelter of the pests is cause for concern this season.

"We know we're at risk for bedbugs," she said. "We don't want that risk to become an infestation again."

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