Opinion: Blood-sucking bed bugs and bureaucracy

We’d only been home a couple minutes when I realized my gaffe.

Having just spent two weeks on a splendid Maritimes vacation, I’d hauled my suitcase (a big backpack, really) up our two flights of stairs and into the main bedroom.

This, of course, after spending several straight days in various hotels and cottages along the frothy coast.

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And that was when the thought hit me like a shot of pressurized gas – there could have been bed bugs at any of the places we’d stayed.

By hauling my bag into our living quarters without cleaning it, I’d allowed the nasty creatures – had there been any – a beachhead into our house.

Dumb move.

Thankfully, we were spared the wrath of the incorrigble Cimex lectularius, whose populations have seen a radical and recent upswing in cities across Canada and the rest of the world. Indeed, Toronto is in such desperate straits to rid itself of the insects it has even set up the Toronto Bed Bug Project, a multi-agency initiative. 

Other cities across North America have also stepped up their eradication measures, with some media reports saying bed bug-related calls to the U.S. National Pest Management Association are up 81 per cent over the past decade.

And in Ottawa, pest control companies say they’ve seen a 600-per-cent jump in bed bug-related calls over last year.

Viewed in this context, my post-vacation misstep got me thinking. What would we do if we ever were infested by the little buggers? I mused, with increasing horror.

About five days later I spoke with Lorne Chadnick. He’s the Ottawa-based owner of Rest Assured MC and is the official Canadian and U.S. reseller of Cryonite, a European product that uses pressurized, liquid carbon dioxide to blast the blood-sucking thugs into next week (it actually freezes them, but you get my drift).

It’s designed for hotels, property management companies, shelters, senior residences, student residences, cruise ships, manufacturing facilities and hospitals, as well as individual homes.

He says the product, which runs around $7,000 for a gun, trolley cart and gas tank (admittedly, a little out of my price range), is non-toxic – though it will burn the skin if applied directly, and must be used in a ventilated area – and that it has been sold and marketed for some time now in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

But Mr. Chadnick says the biggest fight thus far hasn’t been with his tiny nemeses.

The real stumbling block to his business, he maintains, has been dealing with the government.

After battling with representatives from Health Canada regarding the safety of the product, he says he eventually got it approved for the Canadian market after a bit more than a year of wrangling.

But he adds that the department only approved the product for commercial use. That means anyone who wishes to operate Cryonite needs to undertake training and pesticide certification programs and become a licenced exterminator (though the product is not a pesticide).

Mr. Chadnick acknowledges the important role government bodies play in protecting the Canadian public. But he also says the ruling was a blow to his entire business model in Canada. No licence is necessary for use in the U.S., and he says sales are booming in that part of the world.

And while he says he expects Canadian sales to be solid – the product launched north of the border this month – he also says the extra red tape adds cost and time for many potential customers looking to use Cryonite themselves.

“(The product) is perfect for a hotel, but if they have to get a license they might say it’s not really worth going through that process,” he says. Government officials could not be reached for comment by press time.

“Right now we have a property manager in Alberta who wants to buy our product, and he’s getting his (exterminator) license so he can use the product himself,” he says. “He’s going through a lot of aggravation.”

To Mr. Chadnick, though, it’s been worth the wait.

His other company, The Allergy Guy, sells hypo-allergenic gear and other bed bug-related items, and what was once a one-person operation now boasts three employees and a stocked warehouse.

But the best part of the whole deal? At least now I know who to call if we ever run into problems at our house – although I’m not too confident about how I’d do on the exterminators’ test.


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