Several years ago I was treating a very rare good quality rooming house for bed bugs and noticed a large stack of flyers (one foot tall) beside the laundry machines about 4 feet away from an infested suite. These flyers were destined to be delivered to local mailboxes by someone living in this rooming house. I remember thinking that this was not a good idea.
Several months later I received a call from an inner city friend who stated he found a bed bug on the envelope portion of his mail in his mail box. He took a picture of it and I confirmed that it was indeed a bed bug.
I immediately started thinking through the risk factors for how that bug ended up in that mail box. The first was the actual mail. Given that the mail is sorted in large commercial plants the risk of having bugs transmitted from that source is negligible. A more realistic risk would be from the letter carrier’s delivery bag if it is stored near an infested bed. But given that letter carriers make a reasonable wage (middle class) and are by definition able bodied I would consider them to be at a lower risk level. Middle class folks have the financial wherewithal to address bed bugs and a vested interest in being bed bug free as their friends are all middle class and if the bed bugs are not addressed appropriately their friends will disappear. Furthermore a letter carrier is by definition an “able bodied person” and is able to do all the work required to get rid of the bugs.
The other prime suspect is the flyer delivery people. I immediately thought of the flyers destined for delivery in the rooming house mentioned above and, following Occam’s Razor reasoning, deemed this as the most likely source of the bed bug in the mail box. Given that flyer delivery people are very poorly paid the people delivering flyers will most likely live in very poor accommodations such as rooming houses where bed bugs are not addressed adequately (see blog on rooming houses). Even the most capable person can not avoid having bed bugs in this setting. And because the rooms are very small any stored flyer or delivery bag is destined to be within five feet of the bed which is very dangerous.
I called the flyer delivery company in our area and explained the bed bug in the mail box problem. I also outlined the risk factors listed above and requested that protocols be put in place that would reduce the likelihood of bed bug transmission to the flyers. The flyer delivery company owner immediately denied that flyers are ever stored in rooming houses. When I apprised her that I saw a bundle of flyers destined for delivery inside a rooming house with my own eyes she could offer no explanation.
Since that incident I have treated all my flyers like toxic waste. I have also, as an inner city resident, had the opportunity to watch the flyer delivery people go about their work. I take special note of how they move their flyers. To date I have seen good protocols suggesting the flyer delivery company owner implemented my suggestions. The flyers are now delivered to an outside area and are delivered using a wagon that seemed to live outside (at least I never saw the wagon enter the building). If I could be assured that this was always the case I would stop treating my flyers like toxic waste.