Bedbugged about insecticides? Just use as advised

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In a number of U.S. cities (New York, for instance), bedbugs have become a relatively common concern. Do you also need to be worried about the insecticides used to combat them? Well ¦yes and no.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that, in the seven states studied from 2003 to 2010, there were 110 documented illnesses and one death associated with the use of such insecticides. However, half of these cases resulted from unapproved and inadvisable practices, such as excessive insecticide application, failure to wash or change pesticide-treated bedding, inadequate notification of pesticide application, or pesticide application performed by uncertified individuals. The majority of the reported illnesses, however, were of low severity. Common symptoms included headaches and dizziness, upper respiratory tract pain and irritation, and nausea and vomiting. The single fatality involved excessive and improper application inside the home.

The real message of this report, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross, is that people need to be applying these insecticides according to standard instructions. He also notes that the numbers in the report should not throw anyone into a panic: Among the 111 cases described in the report, only 16 percent were categorized as either definitely or probably attributable to insecticide exposure not to mention that half of the cases were due to inappropriate use, including direct application to the body.

Dr. Ross also notes that he hopes no one will construe this report, which focuses on a class of insecticides called pyrethroids, as a condemnation of the agricultural use of pesticides. The latter is a totally separate practice one that is well regulated and necessary for healthy crop yields.