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.
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 their 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 properly mix the product (if a concentrate) and where and how to apply it safely within the home.
Jon L.Gelman of Wayne NJ, is the author NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson).
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