by Linawti Sidarto
International Herald Tribune

AMSTERDAM - Most people hate head lice, but few disdain them with such a passion that they actually invented a way to get rid of the bugs permanently. One such person is Kirsti Järvinen, an Amsterdam-based furniture designer who invented the bug bag. 'When my son Thor came home from school with head lice for the second time a couple of years ago, I'd just had enough. We had just gone through the whole litany of treating the whole family with this awful disinfectant shampoo and washing all the linen. I had to do something,' Järvinen said. She figured that the easiest way for head lice to spread is via children's coats at schools, so she had to find a way to prevent the creatures from travelling from one jacket to the next. And thus, the bug bag was born: a nylon tent made with a metal hook on top, with which kids can cover their coats. 'Most people don't realise that lice, like most insects, always move upwards. So the most important thing about the BUG BAG is that its top is sealed, so that the lice cannot move to another coat,' she explained. With a capital of fl. 500 (€ 681.82), the first batch of 30 BUG BAGs were tried out on an elementary school class in June 2000. In a month, the class was lice-free. 

The BUG BAGs, with its own website www.bugbag.nl, have gone a long way since its inception: last year, Järvinen sold up to 30,000, priced between € 8.50 and € 10.20, depending on the quantity of the order, and she now handles a monthly demand of around 8,000, including from Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain. The BUG BAGs, which come in four colours, can be seen hanging in hundreds of Dutch schools. 'Its success came as a bit of a surprise to me, since in the beginning I was so focused on one purpose: eradicating those pesty lice,' she said. Most of the bags are produced in Holland by a company employing mentally-challenged people. When demand kept rising, Järvinen found a company in Hungary 'which was on the brink of bankruptcy' to do additional production. 'Doing business in a socially-responsible way is crucial for me'. While she has received offers for her invention, she stressed that 'I could never sell it. It's my baby'. Nevertheless, she is looking to cooperate with companies that share the same outlook in business, like the Body Shop, since I realise that in the long run I won't be able to handle all the aspects of the business on my own. Meanwhile, Järvinen is already busy with her next invention, still within the scope of keeping the bugs away: a multi-functional coat rack for the BUG BAGs.


Mother designs Bug Bag to counter 'school louse'

January 10, 2001 This article was reprinted courtesy of ANP

Revolutionary is the description for the invention of mother and designer K. Jarvinen of Amsterdam . She designed a sort of cape for children to hang over their coats at school to prevent the spreading of head lice. The first test was a great success, declared the school director, I. Harmse. Head lice is a stubborn problem, especially at primary schools in Holland, so much so that some of them cannot manage to get their classes free of one plague of lice before the next one starts. So too the school in Amsterdam where Ms Jarvinen sends her children. The director told us: 'We have tried many things. Someone has even designed a special clothes rack to get rid of head lice. We also tried plastic bags but the lice came back persistently'.

Designer Kirsti Jarvinen, determined to do something about the problem, invented the so-called Bug Bag. 'The Bug Bag goes over the coat, is completely sealed at the top but remains open at the bottom so that a wet coat can still dry.' The Bug Bag insures that the route from one coat on the coat rack to the next is closed off to lice traffic. The coat rack is the place where lice find their way from one collar to another and hence from one child to the next. According to the director of the school the use of the Bug Bag rid the school of the lice plague within a few weeks. The Amsterdam City Health Service now recommends the Bug Bag as a preventative means of dealing with outbreaks of lice at schools. Kirsti Jarvinen says that she received about three hundred telephone calls within ten days from parents ordering a Bug Bag. Meanwhile she has applied for a patent on the Bug Bag.