Prevent pesticide exposure when treating for bed bugs

Use of pesticides indoors requires several considerations to prevent harmful exposure to people and pets.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory regarding the misuse of pesticides by people who are trying to treat their homes for bed bug infestations. The major concern is that outdoor pesticides are being used indoors. This is a dangerous practice that may cause serious illness and even death.

When pesticides are used indoors there are several considerations that must be taken into account in order to prevent harmful exposure to people and pets. In order to prevent exposure to pesticides the CDC suggests the following:

  1. Before using a pesticide to treat a bed bug infestation, make sure that the pests you have are actually bed bugs. Many pests look alike. You may be using a pesticide in vain if you don’t have a positive identification. This can be expensive and potentially dangerous.
  2. Do not use pesticides indoors if they are meant for outdoor use. Misuse of pesticides in this way may cause illness and even death. Read the label. It will tell you if the pesticide is meant for indoor or outdoor use.
  3. If you decide to hire someone to treat your infestation with pesticides, make sure you hire an expert pest management professional. A pest management professional will do a thorough inspection and also give you instructions for preparing your home for treatment.

The Michigan State University Extension bulletin, “Choosing a Pest Management Company,” and the article, “How to Choose a Pest Management Company” both include information on how to work with pest management professionals.

  1. If you buy over the counter pesticides that you plan to apply yourself, be sure of all three of the following:
  • The product is in unopened, original pesticide containers
  • The containers are labeled
  • The containers have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number.
  1. Always follow the instruction on the product label. The label includes information about what pest the product is intended to kill, how to mix the product and where and when to apply the product. If you do not follow the label instructions, you may harm your family and your pets. You may also contaminate your belongings, which may be expensive to replace.
  2. Do not use other household chemicals such as bleach, kerosene or rubbing alcohol in an attempt to kill pests. These substances may cause negative health effects, fire or explosions.

You can find information on how to effectively treat bed bug infestations at the EPA website at or from the National Pesticide Information Center at

Michigan State University Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) to address the bed bug issue. For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the MDCH website,

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