Misuse of pesticides to treat bed bugs may be dangerous

Many are using pesticides meant for the outdoors in their homes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a health advisory on Nov. 27, 2012. This health advisory warned of the increasing misuse of pesticides in the treatment of bed bug infestations, as well as other pests. One of the most common ways that people misuse pesticides is by using pesticides that are approved only for outdoor use, indoors. Misuse of pesticides can cause mild to serious health effects, including death. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registrywarns that outdoor pesticides should not be used indoors under any circumstances.”

The use of outdoor pesticides indoors may cause pesticide poisoning. The symptoms of pesticide poisoning include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and muscle tremors. If outdoor pesticides are used indoors, there may be financial consequences as well as physical illness. Pesticides may contaminate items such as furniture, electronics, linens, toys and other personal belongings. If this happens, the items will have to be disposed of in order to prevent further illness.

Even if pesticides that are approved for indoor use are used indoors they may be improperly applied and thus cause health problems. People sometimes go by the mistaken theory “if a little is good then a lot will be better.” That is a dangerous notion to follow when it comes to pesticides. If pesticides are over-applied or not applied according to the instructions on the label, they can cause serious health problems. Misuse of indoor pesticides can also result in contamination of household property that will in turn have to be disposed of and replaced. Household clean-up after misapplication of pesticides can also be expensive.

There are things that consumers should look out for when deciding whether or not to use an indoor pesticide. The following information should be included on the product label:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number.
  • A statement indicating that the pesticide is intended for indoor use.
  • The label should specifically say that the pesticide is meant to be used to treat your home for bed bugs.
  • Instructions for how to properly mix the product if it is a concentrate and where and how to apply it safely within the home.

If you decide to use a pesticide to treat bed bug infestation within your home, use care and be sure to follow label instructions. Remember, NEVER use outdoor pesticides indoors!

Michigan State University Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Community Health to address the bed bug issue. For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website, www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.

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