Science & Tech

Inside the Race to Crush Paris’ Bedbug Crisis-TGN

And even if a dog can sniff the insects out, it can’t get rid of them. This has to be done by humans. Parisian pest control companies are doing a healthy trade too.

For Hygiène Premium, which specializes in insect and rat control, traditionally about 40 to 50 percent of people calling them have trouble with bedbugs. “Now, that’s eight people out of 10,” says Sacha Krief, its associate manager. Overall, his company has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of bedbug-treatment cases.

According to Anses, France’s national health security agency, the average cost to get rid of bedbugs is 890 euros ($937), and the price is often even higher in Paris. “It can go up to 1,000, 2,000, even 3,000 euros. Not many people can get this out of their bank accounts overnight,” says Antoine Demière, an advisor to Paris’ first deputy in charge of urban planning. Given the large amounts of money involved, a national registry of certified companies is in the works to prevent unscrupulous actors from scamming clients—40 cases of bedbug-related fraud have been reported to France’s directorate for consumer affairs over the past few months.

For social tenants, there’s protection against these high prices, thanks to a 2020 agreement signed between the town hall and social housing groups. Each household pays an additional 4 euros per year on their rent, and, in cases of a bedbug infestation, the city will take care of it for free. “Our top priority is to protect lower-income Parisians,” explains Demière. “We don’t help the poorer population because they’re more likely to get bedbugs, but because they’re less likely to be able to pay thousands of euros to have their home disinfected.”

However, it can take up to several weeks before the social housing groups hire private pest control companies to take care of the problem—way too long to contain the crisis, says Ducomte.

These companies have traditionally used chemicals to get rid of bedbugs, but they are using them less and less, says Bérenger: “The European Union now prohibits the use of some, and people are less and less eager to have chemical products all over their house.” Plus, bedbugs are getting resistant, he says. “They won’t die, they’ll just move on to another apartment, especially when the protocol is not professionally executed.”

For these reasons, French companies are now prioritizing “mechanical solutions.” The main three are steam treatment, cryogenic technologies, and heat guns—the goal being to kill bedbugs and their eggs using either very high or very low temperatures. These processes are more expensive than chemical ones because they require more people, but they also save a lot of time.

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