Caution on How You Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are unpleasant in the extreme, but taking shortcuts to get rid of them can be worse: Federal investigators combing a database that includes just 12 states found 111 cases of acute illness due to bed bug pesticides between 2003 and 2010, mostly in the last few years.

Nearly 40 percent of the cases involved pesticides being applied by people who were not certified to use them, the researchers wrote in Thursday’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  The majority of symptoms were were minor (headache, dizziness, upper respiratory tract pain, nausea and vomiting); one person died.

Pyrethroids and pyrethrins, both of which are common in pesticides, were implicated in 90 percent of the cases. Exposures were traced to excessive application, failure to wash or replace treated bedding, ineffective warnings, not leaving the premises during treatment, spills, and inadequate ventilation.

Ending bed bug infestations is a pricey, complex process requiring certified professionals with the equipment needed to take steps like heating rooms to 118 degrees (or cooling them to 3 degrees) and encasing furniture in special covers.

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