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Bedbug Summit Tackles Biting Nightmare

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Associated Press: The federal government is waking up to what has become a growing nightmare in many parts of the country -- a bedbug outbreak.

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The tiny reddish-brown insects, last seen in great numbers before World War II, are on the rebound. They have infested college dormitories, hospital wings, homeless shelters and swanky hotels from New York City to Chicago to Washington.

They live in the crevices and folds of mattresses, sofas and sheets. Then, most often before dawn, they emerge to feed on human blood.

Faced with rising numbers of complaints to city information lines and increasingly frustrated landlords, hotel chains and housing authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency hosted its first-ever bedbug summit Tuesday.

Put on by an EPA's federal advisory committee, the two-day conference which drew about 300 participants to the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Va., will provide the agency with advice and recommendations.

The Sheraton has had no reported bedbug problems, according to a popular online registry, so at least conference participants will be sleeping tight.

"The problem seems to be increasing and it could definitely be worse in densely populated areas like cities, although it can be a problem for anyone," said Lois Rossi, director of the registration division in the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs.

And the EPA is not alone in trying to deal with the problem. An aide to Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., says he plans to reintroduce legislation next week to expand grant programs to help public housing authorities deal with infestations

Many of the programs cover cockroaches and rodents, but not bedbugs. The bill will be called the Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite Act.

"It was clear something needed to be done," said Saul Hernandez, Butterfield's legislative assistant.

In 2002, EPA classified bedbugs as a public health pest.

But there are few chemicals on the market approved for use on mattresses that are effective at controlling bedbug infestations. The appleseed-sized critters have also developed a resistance to some of the chemicals on the market.

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