Following a report of a bedbug infestation at the Brooklyn Children's Museum by the New York Daily News last night, the museum released a statement saying that the bedbugs are gone and that it's safe for people to visit.
Patch consulted three bedbug experts who said that while it's not necessarily a sure thing yet that the bugs are gone, it is certainly safe to visit.
An exterminator was brought in on August 16 after a bedbug was found in a mezzanine office. Bedbugs were also found near a reading chair in Totally Tots, a section for children under 4. The museum was treated and re-opened the next day, according to the Daily News.
A second visit from the exterminator on Aug. 20, unearthed bedbugs in two more locations at the museum.
But museum officials said the building now "has no bedbugs" in a statment released today:
The Brooklyn Children's Museum is committed to the safety of our
visitors and our staff. In response to this incident we have had a
certified extermination firm inspect our facility on several occasions over the past two weeks. We have followed their recommendations, as well as those outlined by the City's Health Department. These include immediate treatment of infested areas, which were primarily inaccessible to the public. All treatments occurred during evening hours, took effect 2-3 hours after application, and used EPA-approved materials that are not harmful to children.
As part of our response we disposed of items that are susceptible to infestation, as a supplement to our daily and evening cleaning and sanitization routine. We will be adding more frequent bed bug inspections to our building-wide maintenance routine.
The building will be closed to the public from September 10- 21, 2012 for our yearly fall cleaning. While we refresh our exhibits we will also fumigate the building. This additional step will serve as an extra precaution.
We affirm that the museum does not have bed bugs and is safe for visitors - and we will be open this weekend for all scheduled events.
The Daily News reports that many workers at the museum were uncomfortable with how the museum handled the infestation.
“ ... many of us are uncomfortable with the ethics of keeping the museum open and not telling the public about the bugs,” said Colleen Lynch, 47, a former exhibits coordinator at the museum who quit soon after the bedbugs were discovered.
Patch asked three experts—an entomologist and two exterminators—if they thought it was safe to visit the museum, and all said yes.
"In a museum setting, you don’t have people sitting for long periods of time, you don’t have people sleeping—the chances of somebody picking up a bedbug are pretty small. It’s not zero, but it's pretty small," said Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann an urban entomologist at Cornell University who served on NYC's bedbug advisory board in 2010.
"But," she added, at publics spaces like museums, the chances of finding a bedbug, "are pretty high."
All three also agreed that there was no need for the museum to close for any period of time.
"If the museum was treated by a reputable company, I think the children can go back the next day,” said Jeffrey Dworkin, president of Ecology Exterminating Service in Kensignton.
Rodney McDonald, owner of My Private Exterminator in Crown Heights, agreed.
Both men said that after the first treatment, most bugs would be gone. They both also noted that people are exposed to potential bedbugs every time they go to a public place.
Dworkin said that bedbugs are found all the time in the city, but that it’s standard practice to treat overnight and open as usual the next day.
“It happens all the time in department stores and movie theaters,” he said.
The standard practice for treating bedbugs is three treatments, spaced two weeks apart.
After the first treatment there is still a reasonable chance that some bedbugs may still be around. On a scale of 1-10, Dworkin said the chance was about 5. After the second treatment he puts the chance at “around 2 or 2.5.”
“After the third treatment it’s zero,” he said.
Dworkin suggests parents inspect all clothing, shoes, bags and other items brought to the museum for bugs before bringing them into the home. Most bedbugs are reddish brown and between ¼ and ⅝ of an inch, and hence quite visible.
Before a nymph bedbug has its first drink of blood, it is whitish/clear and hard to see, but even those, as well as the long, thin, poppy seed-length eggs, can be seen during a careful inspection under a strong LED light, said Gangloff-Kaufmann, adding that the nymphs rarely "travel."
So would Dworkin bring his own kids to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum?
“If there was an event that they really wanted to go to, I would go,” he said. Living in a city, you can’t avoid the possibility of being exposed to bedbugs, he added, pointing out that you never know when you might end up sitting next to someone who has them.
“You can't live your life like that. To start making your kid crazy—it’s isolating,” he said. “Be vigilant, know what to look for, be very careful and go on with your life as usual.”
Jamie Schuh contributed to this report.