A Noblesville family is dealing with bed bugs -- creepy crawling night stalkers with an appetite for human blood -- on a daily basis because of a couch they bought at a thrift store.
Members of the family, who didn't want their identities disclosed, citing embarrassment, have endured numerous bites, Call 6's Rafael Sanchez
"I was horrified. I was absolutely horrified," said the homeowner, scrolling through a series of pictures on a digital camera.
A $100 couch purchased at a Goodwill store in Noblesville was the source of the bugs. Initially, the family thought they were infested with ticks. They sprayed multiple times, but kept seeing the bugs and feeling the bites.
"This is the worst possible thing that I think could happen, other than an infestation of ... rats and mice," the homeowner said. "It makes me leery to buy anything that's secondhand, but in this economy, I can't buy new."
Goodwill is paying more than $500 a year for extermination treatment after its insurance company refused to deal with the insects that spread through the home.
"That's an isolated incident. We're confident that it is. What we want shoppers to know is that when they come to any of our 41 Goodwill locations, they can be assured that the merchandise that we put in our stores has gone through an inspection," said Cindy Graham, a representative of the company. "We know that they expect quality merchandise at an affordable price. Customer safety is our No. 1 priority."
The store discarded the couch, but doesn't plan to change how it inspects donated furniture.
"It's a visual inspection. We wipe down wood furniture. If there is something that is cloth and it's stained or damaged, we are not going to put it out on the sales floor," Graham said.
Most charitable groups said they only spot clean donated furniture. None of them deep clean or check for bed bugs, but no law or regulation requires them to do so.
Professor Timothy J. Gibb, an entomologist at Purdue University, is taking part in a national effort to find a solution to the proliferation of bed bugs.
Gibb said donated furniture should be checked more closely.
"My opinion is absolutely they need to because that is one of the major routes of bed bugs and bed bug re-infestation," he said. "We are seeing a resurgence of bed bugs everywhere. These things do not discriminate."
Gibb's team is working on a steam treatment program to deal with outbreaks in Indianapolis apartments.
"They're very notorious about crawling into cracks and crevices, be it someone's luggage, or be it shoes or clothing," he said.
Only a few places in the country have laws requiring upholstered furniture be sterilized before resale, including Detroit, Las Vegas and nine states.
The Noblesville homeowner said she wished she'd never bought the furniture in question.
"This has been a nightmare, and all because we wanted a couch," she said.
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