Warning: Insecticides Can Be More Dangerous Than Bedbugs

October 3, 2011

Bedbugs don’t make people sick. But the poisons used to kill them can.

A new government study has found that dozens of Americans have fallen ill from the insecticides, and a North Carolina woman died after using 18 cans of chemical fogger to attack the tiny blood suckers.

Because many of the cases, including the lone death, were do-it-yourselfers who misused the chemicals or applied the wrong product, federal health officials are warning consumers to be careful and urging them to call professionals.

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted 80 illnesses and one death linked to the insecticides over three years. Most of the cases were in New York City, the apparent epicenter of a recent U.S. bedbug comeback.

The CDC was able to get data from 12 states, and only seven had reports of such illnesses.

One was New York, where bedbugs have become a highly publicized problem and where health officials have also been extra vigilant about reporting unusual chemical poisonings.

Investigators were relieved to find a relatively small number of cases.

“At this point, it’s not a major public health problem,” said Dr. Geoff Calvert, a CDC investigator who co-authored the study.

Bedbugs are wingless, reddish-brown insects that bite people and animals to draw blood for their meals. Though their bites can cause itching and welts, they are not known to spread disease.

Researchers in the CDC study reviewed reports from California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Texas and Washington.

They counted 111 cases from 2003 through 2010. Most occurred in the last few years, when bedbug reports rose across the country. More than half were in New York City.

Topics New York

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