Bug bombs and bug foggers are making thousands of people sick across the country, and have been linked to at least four deaths, according to recent warning issued by federal health officials.
In the latest issue of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers highlight reports of problems linked to total release foggers, more commonly known as bug foggers or bombs, which are psteicide products often used indoors to kill insects.
The products contain pesticides to kill cockroaches, bed bugs, fleas and other insects. Users are instructed to release the product and vacate the area for a specified amount of time, as well as to make sure recommendations are followed for proper ventilation.
The CDC report analyzed data from 2007 to 2015 from the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risk-Pesticides programs, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation Program, and poison control centers in Florida, Texas and Washington.
A total of 3,222 people became ill in 10 states during that time period after using bug foggers. The majority of the illnesses were caused after users failed to leave the area “bombed” during application. It was also common for users to reenter the premises earlier than was considered safe.
The illnesses appeared to be unaffected by stronger label warning requirements put into place in 2012, researchers found, because consumers ignored or did not notice them.
More than 90% of bug bomb exposures happened when users released them in private homes. About 4% of cases were caused by children under 13 releasing the bug bombs.
Other causes involved the inability to leave the area being fogged before the “bomb” was discharged. Similarly, improper ventilation in fogged areas also caused illnesses.
Four people died as a result of acute symptoms. More than 92% of illnesses involved exposure to the pesticides pyrethroid or pyrethrin, however pyrethroid was the primary culprit.
Most patients reported feeling respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms. Respiratory symptoms included cough, upper respiratory pain, irritation, and dyspnea. Gastrointestinal symptoms experienced included vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and cramping.
Usually, the severity of victims’ symptoms were low. However, about 21% indicated their symptoms were moderate and less than 1% experienced severe symptoms.
About 5% of illnesses occurred in children under 5, and about 14% occurred in adults over 60 years.
Warning Labels Ineffective
The EPA required improved bug fogger labeling on products manufactured after September 2012. However, researchers noted there was no change in the number of people sickened by the pesticides from the bug foggers in the three years after the labels were changed. Researchers said the directions were often unread or simply ignored.
Some users followed the directions regarding length of time and ventilation, and still fell ill. This may indicate the recommended time for ventilation is insufficient, researchers warned.
The CDC is calling for improved modifications for bug foggers, including integrated pest management strategies, better communication about the hazards of bug foggers and proper uses of the products, as well as focusing on redesigning the product to prevent sudden, unexpected release.
Health officials warn users should avoid contact with bug fogger chemicals, follow all directions on bug fogger instructions, and take special care to properly ventilate treated areas.