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DIY Bed Bug Treatments Gone Wrong Pose a Danger to Pets & People

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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 in the home.  Some pesticides are being applied indoors even though they are approved only for outdoor use.  The agencies warn that even pesticides that are approved for indoor use can cause harm if over applied or not used as instructed on the product label.

Now, you and I may be thinking what numbskull uses pesticides inside the home, right?  Not so fast smarty-pants, pesticides are used everyday inside the home for a number of reasons, including applying them directly to pets for control of fleas and ticks.  No, in this instance, the problem is not bugs on pets but bugs in beds.  Yup.  Bed bugs.

DIYers & dimwitted pest control operators

Well meaning but clueless DIYers, confident in their cost cutting skills by cutting a few corners, are using lawn pesticides on their beds instead.  Hate to break it to them, but that penny-pinching move is probably not going to have the effect they were hoping for.

Not all cases of screw-ups were the fault of hapless homeowners, but of dimwitted and/or unscrupulous licensed and unlicensed pest control applicators that illegally sprayed outdoor pesticides indoors to control bed bugs.  In some cases, these pesticides were found at levels that could have harmed people’s health.

Pets, the sentinels for screw-ups

The first sign of trouble, ATSDR and the CDC warn, are symptoms that first appear in pets and infants who are the sentinels for screw-ups in the pesticide and insecticide department.  The symptoms of pesticide poisoning include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, neurological symptoms (such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances, numbness in the face and limbs, muscle tremors, etc.), abdominal pain, and cardiopulmonary symptoms (chest tightness, heart palpitations, and chest pain).

How might pesticide exposure affect children?

It is particularly dangerous to allow children to reoccupy a home that has had a recent pesticide treatment where surfaces are still wet, or where they can come in direct contact with pesticide dusts.  Children can put objects that have pesticide residues on them in their mouths, and generally put their hands in their mouths and touch their faces more often than adults.  They also breathe a greater volume of air per body weight than adults do.  Thus, the behavior and physical characteristics of children can lead to higher exposures than adults.

Do pesticide products affect the health of animals?

Well, yeah. Duh. Exposed animals may have the same health effects as people.  Illness in pets after a pest control application is sometimes a first warning that pesticides have been misused or over applied.  Because of their small body weights, exposed pets may show signs of pesticide poisoning quickly.  Cats and dogs may be exposed to pesticides when they come in contact with contaminated surfaces such as floors.

 To find out more, view the CDC news bulletin.

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

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