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EPA awards grants to combat bed bugs

By Divina Mims, CNN
  • Grants will go to programs in five states
  • EPA seeks new approaches to control bed bugs
  • Bed bugs feed on human blood

(CNN) -- Targeting social service agencies that serve low-income, minority and immigrant neighborhoods, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $550,000 in bed bug-control education and prevention grants, the agency announced Thursday.

According to a news release, the five grants will be used in communities where the plague of "bed bug pressures are significant but resources to address the problems are limited."

Over the next 24 months state organizations from Texas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, and New Jersey will facilitate programs aimed at helping prevent widespread bed bug infestations.

For example, the EPA website lists the Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene as receiving $142,440. The money will go to develop and provide training as well as technical and material support to residents, service providers and retail firms that combat bed bugs in the 12 poorest ZIP codes of Baltimore and as well as county health offices throughout Maryland.

The grant would include training for the migrant workers of Caroline County, who are extremely vulnerable to bed bugs, the EPA said. The educational outreach programs seek to reach groups that serve transitional housing managers, vendors of second hand goods, healthcare providers, and local pest product providers, the EPA said.

Also listed on EPA website is a grant for New Jersey's Rutgers University of $99,688. Rutgers will lead a statewide bed bug educational outreach program for low-income communities. The effectiveness of anti-bed bug programs will be measured through monitoring of all apartments in those communities and documenting pesticide usage over one year.

Due to the influx of bed bugs around the United States last year, the EPA hosted a national bed bug summit in early February.

The grants are a step to further educate the public about bed bugs. Last summer in New York several high end hotels, clothing stores Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, Niketown, and Victoria's Secret, as well as an AMC movie theater in Times Square shut down due to a serious invasion of the insects.

The goal is to seek new approaches in managing bed bug problems. EPA spokesman Dale Kemery said, "Lessons learned from the grants will be available for use by other communities."

Bed bugs, according to the EPA, are brown insects about 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch long that feed on the blood of humans through biting. They are known to live up to a year without feeding.

Typical steps for ridding and preventing bed bug infestations include correctly identifying the bugs, and then physically removing the bugs through cleaning, applying appropriate pesticides, and reducing clutter.