As if bed bugs aren’t scary enough—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now reporting that the pesticides used to kill them can cause human illness and even fatality. From 2003 to 2010, 111 people in the U.S. were sickened and one was killed from bed bug insecticides. Common symptoms included headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, though 81% of these cases were not severe.
While the majority of these pesticide-related illnesses occurred in New York (how utterly shocking), people in California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas and Washington were also afflicted. To make matters worse, bed bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to certain pesticides. These chemicals are making us sick, while bed bugs just peer out from our wooden dressers and laugh!
There are natural ways to deal with bed bugs, but reports on their effectiveness are mixed. When my roommate in Brooklyn found bed bugs in her room a few years ago, we debated going the natural route, but ultimately our fear of the critters spreading and destroying everything we owned won out, and we had the landlord call the exterminator. Sometimes, when actually faced with the prospect of bed bugs, you just want to use anything that will obliterate them right NOW. [If you've had luck with natural bed bug killers, though, do share in the comments, please.]
The CDC said there haven’t been enough cases of serious illness linked to bed bug pesticides yet to consider them a public health threat. And that using insecticides properly—meaning not using too much, and not sleeping in pesticide-treated bedding before washing—can reduce your chances of getting ill. In the case of the pesticide fatality, the woman who died was 65 years old, had a host of health problems already, and had her husband apply insecticide directly to her body and hair. The CDC says that, if anything, all of this indicates that more public education about dealing with bed bugs is needed.
Photo: Bed Bugs Handbook