Monthly Archives: September 2016

akes Up Fight Against for Bedbugs

After six decades of living nearly bedbug-free, the United States is facing a national infestation. Bedbug outbreaks have been reported in every state and in every type of neighborhood.

“The incidence of bedbug infestation has risen 500 percent in the last few years alone,” says Mehmet Oz, MD, a leading cardiac surgeon, host of the Daytime Emmy Award-winning The Dr. Oz Show, and featured health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show. “And they’re not just in dirty hotels; they’re at the five-star ones and they’re swarming the public places you visit every day.”

Why Are We Infested With Bedbugs?

What’s going on? Are Americans failing to keep their homes and public spaces clean?

Actually, no. A common misperception about bedbugs is that they only show up in dirty homes and apartments. In fact, says Dr. Oz, “A lack of cleanliness has no relationship to the likelihood of bedbugs.”

Instead, our concern about the environment has contributed to the current scourge. Bedbugs were nearly eliminated in the United States through the use of strong pesticides. But after these pesticides were banned in the United States in the 1990s, and as international travel increased, bedbugs began to reappear, and their presence is continuing to increase rapidly.

Are Bedbug Bites Dangerous?

While most people cringe at the thought of bedbugs, there is one piece of good news about these wingless biting insects: “There is currently no evidence that they transmit infectious disease,” says Dr. Oz.

Still, when they invade a space, they multiply rapidly, and by the time you notice bites, there could be hundreds or thousands in your home. They don’t like light, which is why people generally are bitten in dark places like movie theaters or while asleep. And since the bite is painless, victims usually don’t notice until they wake up.

“Bedbugs hunt for bare patches of skin and typically inflict several clusters of bites that are lined up in a row,” explains Dr. Oz. “These bites may even go unnoticed or be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other types of rashes.”

Bedbug bites can be very itchy, but usually go away on their own within a week or two. Bites can be treated with an over-the-counter skin cream containing hydrocortisone and an over-the-counter oral antihistamine. Only in very rare cases has a serious allergic reaction occurred.

Expert Resource for the Conscious Consumer

Imagine a marketplace where retailers and manufacturers are compelled to make only safe, environmentally sustainable products from ethically sourced raw materials, produced by a fairly treated workforce. For Dara O’Rourke, it’s not an abstract idea; it’s his vision for the future. As associate professor of environmental and labor policy at the University of California at Berkeley, O’Rourke is a co-founder of GoodGuide.com, an online consumer resource that uses scientific calculations to create sophisticated ratings and assign “health” scores to thousands of products and companies.

Sound complicated? It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s O’Rourke’s way of giving consumers the information they need to understand the personal and social health costs that may go in to producing that household cleaner they’re using, the baby’s diaper, the jeans they’re wearing — the list includes more than 115,000 products so far.

“The idea for GoodGuide came about while I was putting sunscreen on my then 3-year-old daughter’s face. I started wondering about the ingredients in her sunscreen, so I went back to campus at UC Berkeley, where I teach, did some research, and found out that the sunscreen contained traces of potentially toxic chemicals. I then researched the rest of my daughter’s stuff and found that her shampoo, her favorite toys, and even her furniture contained ingredients with potential health hazards. This surprised and angered me,” O’Rourke says. “I realized that even though I have a Ph.D., and study products and supply chains full-time, I knew almost nothing about the products I was bringing into my own house. This motivated me to create GoodGuide, to give consumers the information they need to make better decisions about which products best match their health, environmental, and ethical concerns.” O’Rourke shares more of his findings and story here.

My health breakthrough: I grew up never really thinking about health issues. My family was luckily always very healthy and active. I was a swimmer and water polo player growing up and through college. My father is still a masters runner (in his seventies). So I honestly didn’t really think much about health issues until I was in my twenties conducting research in factories in Southeast Asia. While living and working in Southeast Asia, I got sick a number of times from poor water and hygiene. But more importantly, I saw firsthand the incredibly tough health conditions of workers in factories producing shoes, clothes, electronics, even food for the U.S. market. Over a number of years in the mid-’90s, I was able to get inside these factories and conduct research on worker health and safety conditions. This research ultimately led to a report on the working conditions of Nike workers in Vietnam, which ended up as a front page story in The New York Times and helped spur my interest in health conditions around the world.