Bed bug insecticides and the chemicals to kill pests has put the Centers for Disease Control on alert. Many Americans have become sickened from the exposure and at least one death. The findings are published in the September issue of the Mortality Weekly Report.
“The majority of cases involved misuse,” said report co-author Dr. Geoffrey Calvert, a medical officer at the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
In the new study, the researchers looked at data on illnesses and disease linked to bed bug eradication efforts reported via a federally funded pesticide illness surveillance program between 2003 and 2010. They found 111 such cases across seven states. Most of them, 93 percent, were among people who tried to solve the problem at home.
Many people simply used insecticides from retail stores such as Walmart for chemicals to kill the bugs. Most of the illnesses involved headache and dizziness, pain while breathing, difficulty breathing and nausea and vomiting, according to the report. Many of those who fell ill were workers — such as EMS technicians and carpet cleaners — who visited homes but had not been told that insecticides had recently been sprayed.
A woman in North Carolina who had a history of heart attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and depression died after her husband used too much pesticide. The chemical turned out to be ineffective and was applied inappropriately over several days. The woman even sprayed the pesticide, plus a flea insecticide, on her hair, arms and chest before going to bed.
In another case in Ohio in 2010, an uncertified exterminator used malathion up to five times a day over three days in an apartment to treat an infestation. The bug product purchased was not registered for indoor use, and so much was dispensed that the bed and floor coverings were saturated. New York City had the highest proportion of cases with 64 poisonings, or 58 percent of the overall study.