With our attention turned inside our homes during winter, we might be more apt to notice squatters. Like those with multiple legs, hiding out under baseboards and mattresses.
Yep. Bedbugs and cockroaches, to be specific.
Too many of us are trying to evict such pests with the wrong pesticides, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory, calling the issue an emerging national concern and citing a dramatic increase in the number of bedbug-related inquiries received by agencies.
From early 2006 to the end of 2010, the National Pesticide Information Center reported 169 calls to its hotline in which residents, homeowners or pesticide applicators applied banned pesticides indoors to treat bedbugs, using chemicals that are illegal or not intended for indoor use.
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Of those, 129 resulted in mild or serious health effects to those living in the affected residence. One person died.
Federal officials say the situation first came to their attention when a misapplication of a chemical to treat a bedbug infestation occurred in a residential building in Ohio.
A pest-control applicator hired by the building owner sprayed the interior of two occupied apartments with a pesticide intended only for outdoor use.
The illegal applications were made five times over 72 hours and included spraying of ceilings, floors and even beds and a crib mattress. Occupants included one family with small children, who displayed health symptoms typical of pesticide poisoning, including headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and muscle tremors.
The tenants were evacuated, treated at a hospital and relocated but lost their furniture, electronics, clothing, linens, toys and other personal items that were “grossly contaminated,” according to the CDC.
Even pesticides approved for indoor use can be harmful if over-applied or not used according to the label directions. One mother with a young family contacted officials and reported a number of serious health effects her family experienced from pesticide exposure after a pest-control business had applied multiple pesticides seven times over a five-month period to eliminate bedbugs.
The infestation was later determined to be a different pest.
Before moving out of the contaminated home, family members — including an infant — experienced headaches, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances, numbness, muscle tremors, abdominal and other pain and heart palpitations.
It is particularly dangerous to allow children to live in a recently treated home where surfaces are still wet, or where they can come in direct contact with pesticide dusts, the CDC cautioned in its advisory. 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.
Indoor pets face the same dangers as their owners.
The CDC recommends determining what type of bug you are battling, to not use inappropriate chemicals, to follow all instructions in the label and, best answer, use a certified pest expert.