We've all heard the old saying, “sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.” Well, apparently there's something worse than the bites.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are alerting the public to an emerging national concern regarding misuse of pesticides to treat infestations of bed bugs and other insects indoors.
Some pesticides are being applied indoors even though they are approved only for outdoor use. Even pesticides that are approved for indoor use can cause harm if over-applied or not used as instructed on the product label.
Bugged by bed bugs
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of bed bug-related inquiries received by the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) over the past several years, with many involving incidents of pesticide exposure, spills, or misapplications.
From January 2006-December 2010, NPIC reported 169 calls to its hotline where residents, homeowners or pesticide applicators sprayed pesticides indoors to treat bedbugs. These cases involved pesticides that were misapplied, not intended for indoor use, or legally banned from use. Of those, 129 resulted in mild or serious health effects (including one death) for persons living in affected residences.
ATSDR warns that outdoor pesticides should not be used indoors under any circumstances. Homeowners and applicators should always carefully read the product label to make sure that:
- it has an EPA registration number
- it is intended for indoor use
- it is effective against bed bugs (the label should say it is meant to be used to treat your home for bed bugs) and
- you know how to mix the product properly (if a concentrate) and where and how to apply it safely within the home.
Consumers should also be aware of recent cases where licensed and unlicensed pest control applicators illegally sprayed outdoor pesticides indoors to control bed bugs. In some cases, these pesticides were found at levels that harmed or could have harmed people’s health. In some cases, residents were relocated until their homes could be decontaminated.