Bedbug irradiation services

2010-10-18

in Geek stuff, Security, Travel

Travelers and buyers of used furniture now need to add a costly bedbug infestation to the set of problems they can bring home with them. Coming home from a trip on which you got bitten generates the fear that your clothes, bags, and personal effects have been infested with bugs or eggs. Since the bugs can live for months without food, the danger is a persistent one.

Conventional advice is to wash clothes in hot water and dry them on hot, then freeze everything else for a few weeks. That can be slow and impractical, however. The anxiety of a friend of mine made me think about better options, and I think I have one. Somebody should open a shop where your possessions can be exposed to gamma radiation from cobalt-60, at a level sufficient to kill bedbugs and their eggs. The service would be akin to a laundromat, but entirely focused on bedbug decontamination services.

Cobalt-60 is already used to irradiate food. Apparently, hundreds of animal feeding studies have been conducted on the safety of irradiated food, and the risks associated with having bags and clothing irradiated seem likely to be less than any associated with irradiating food that is then eaten.

While consumers are wary of irradiated food, the prospect of killing bedbugs using ionizing radiation might actually carry a kind of cruel appeal. They are about the most despised animals on the planet, after all.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan October 18, 2010 at 8:56 am

Bedbugs can also be “cooked” out. Large hotels tend to (secretly) have a room which can be held at an elevated temperature (i.e. 80 degrees centigrade) for long periods of time.

I’m not sure if the cobalt-60 approach would be any easier than a firm which offered rooms where your goods could be held at a high temperature for sufficient time. One advantage would concern goods which might be damaged from such temperature.

Milan October 18, 2010 at 9:06 am

High temperatures could be OK for most clothes, though perhaps not for other kinds of objects like books, electronics, etc.

Rachel October 19, 2010 at 4:39 am

My grandfather has an electron beam accelerator that would definitely kill bed bugs. (I have no idea what sort of an effect a strong vacuum would have on clothing though.)

Milan October 19, 2010 at 9:12 am

What was the accelerator ordinarily used for?

Byron Smith October 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Tristan – How do you know about this hotelier secret?

. October 21, 2010 at 8:56 am

Cockroach King Concerned Over Recent Rise Of Bedbugs

GRAND IMPERIAL THRONE ROOM, CASTLE ROACH—His Royal Highness, King Leopold Blattodea IV, undisputed lord and ruler of the cockroaches, expressed dismay and concern Monday that the recent rise in bedbug populations could threaten his sovereignty over the realm of human squalor.

Gathered in His Majesty’s begrimed throne room behind the bathroom sink, a solemn coterie of royal advisers and nobleroaches received the king’s proclamation in tense silence, awaiting his word on precisely how the cockroach kingdom would respond to the bedbug scourge.

“Many hours have I spent in my chambers contemplating this worrisome development,” King Leopold declared from atop his throne of toilet-paper scraps and human hair. “For centuries, the woodwork and drainpipes of the world have been the unassailed domain of we roaches. Exterminators were powerless to stop us. Humans shrieked at the sight of us. But now this meddlesome bedbug has inspired tenfold the terror.”

Rachel October 22, 2010 at 6:07 am

Oops, forgot I had commented and missed your question until now (I assume you’ll get an alert about my late response though).

My grandfather uses his electron beam accelerator to do things like strengthen the plastic used to make prosthetic joints, make gem stones more vibrant, kill microbes in honey, and sterilize medical equipment.

He tried to push the government to allow him to irradiate more food after the Maple Leaf Listeria outbreak but they didn’t really seem to care (it wasn’t that they were opposed to it; they just didn’t pay him any attention). I’m quite a stickler for “natural” food, but I think I’m down with irradiation, based on what I know about how it changes the chemical make up of the food.

Milan October 22, 2010 at 8:06 am

From what I’ve read, food is usually irradiated with gamma rays. Are there any notable differences with electron irradiation?

Gamma rays don’t require a vacuum, for one thing.

Rachel October 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I really don’t know. I’ll ask my grandfather if I remember the next time I see him.

. October 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Of the three common types of radiation given off by radioactive materials, alpha, beta and gamma, beta has the medium penetrating power and the medium ionising power. Although the beta particles given off by different radioactive materials vary in energy, most beta particles can be stopped by a few millimeters of aluminum. Being composed of charged particles, beta radiation is more strongly ionising than gamma radiation. When passing through matter, a beta particle is decelerated by electromagnetic interactions and may give off bremsstrahlung x-rays.

Milan October 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

The advertising copy writes itself:

“Milan’s Bedbug Irradiation Service: Killing Bloodsuckers with Bremsstrahlung X-Rays since 2010.”

. October 25, 2010 at 9:56 am

Killing bed bugs in clothes is pretty straight-forward. If the item is washable, wash it. Be sure to leave it in the dryer for about ten minutes after it’s pretty much dry. This will kill both bed bugs and their eggs. They will die even at non-crazy temperatures – they croak at about 120 degrees – and that temperature isn’t harmful to most clothes. You can even just throw clothes in the drier for ten minutes or so, and that’ll take care of the bad little critters if they happen to be present.

If your clothes are dry clean only, and you don’t want to dry them, then have them dry cleaned.

. May 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm

During the last 50 years, bedbugs have largely become biologically resistant to the pesticides sold at your corner store, namely pyrethroids and pyrethrins. DDT falls into the pyrethroid group, shedding doubts on claims that lifting the EPA’s ban on this dangerous chemical would curb the current bedbug resurgence. Spraying pyrethroids or pyrethrins directly on a resistant bedbug at close range may in fact kill the pest, but there’s little chance of hitting each individual insect, as armies of the sesame-seed sized bugs hide in the teeniest crevices.

“Hair spray, Windex, spearmint or eucalyptus oil will kill bedbugs at a close range too,” says Coby Schal, an urban entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “But I’m not advocating those approaches because bedbugs can walk right over these sprays.” Although the insect repellent DEET is not a pyrethroid or pyrethrin, Schal says it won’t deter a starving bed bug from seeking out human blood. Instead, repellants and sprays encourage the bugs to explore unsprayed territory, like your living room or your neighbor’s flat.

Jim December 5, 2012 at 11:30 am

Rachel,
I would love to talk to your grandfather. We have a company that
treats bed bugs with thermal remeditation. We would like to speed up the process and it sounds like your grandfather could have some great
insight into making it possible.

. September 5, 2016 at 7:14 pm
. September 5, 2016 at 7:15 pm

Data provided by the sanitation department reveals Montreal’s housing authority receives calls about bed bugs from roughly 10 per cent of its units every year. The numbers aren’t rising dramatically, but they aren’t decreasing either.

Ten per cent, however, is far from the total tally of infested homes owned and managed by the city.

“We inspect about half the units every year and we notice that 14 per cent have bed bugs – that’s on top of the calls we get,” Sanche said.

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