Bed Bug Pesticides Linked to Poisoning-Related Illness and Death

In the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (PDF), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a study linking bed bug pesticides to poisoning-related illnesses and death.

The study, entitled Acute Illnesses Associated With Insecticides Used to Control Bed Bugs, investigated 111 reported incidents of illnesses and one fatality associated with bed bug–related insecticide use in the following states: California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Texas, and Washington.

The reported conditions included neurologic symptoms (40%), including headache and dizziness; respiratory symptoms (40%), including upper respiratory tract pain and irritation and dyspnea; and gastrointestinal symptoms (33%), including nausea and vomiting.

The one fatality involved a woman aged 65 years who had a history of renal failure, myocardial infarction, type II diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and depression.

The insecticides implicated in the incidents are known as pyrethrins, a naturally occuring insecticide, and its synthetic version, pyrethroids. These insecticides have been linked to serious health problems.

Consumers are advised to use caution when addressing a bed bug infestation, and seek the services of a certified applicator using what is known as an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, which includes methods such as vacuuming, steaming, and exposing the bugs to high heat. The IPM approach, recommended by both the CDC and EPA, has been shown effective at controlling bed bug infestation without the dangerous side effects of pesticide use.