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Bug bombs: They're also hurting humans

March 10, 2018—Bug bombs are dangerous to humans. And despite better warning labels, they're still hurting people—and in rare cases killing them. That's the conclusion of a new report from federal health officials.

These pesticide products release a fog of chemicals into the air to kill off fleas, cockroaches and other insect invaders in homes and other buildings. If they're not used properly, they can harm people as well as pests.

More than 3,200 bug-bomb related illnesses were reported in 10 states between 2007 and 2015, the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Common reactions to the chemical mist included coughing fits, trouble breathing, vomiting and stomach cramping.

In most cases, conditions resolved without medical treatment. But 21 people had life-threatening reactions, and four people died. Those with asthma were more likely to become severely ill.

The most common reasons people got sick are that they didn't leave their homes after they set off the bug bombs or they came back inside too soon. But people also often became ill when they used too much pesticide or didn't ventilate the area well enough.

No drop in illnesses

To keep people from getting ill, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required improved labeling on all insect foggers made after September 2012. The new labels emphasized proper use.

But the report found no significant difference in the number of illnesses tied to foggers in the first three years after the labeling was updated.

Often, it appeared that users didn't even read the new labels, researchers reported. For instance, many people left a treated room. But they stayed in their homes despite directions to leave the building.

To learn more, read the full report.

Protect yourself—and your family

Clearly, there's a take-home here: Always read—and follow—the directions on bug bomb labels. The EPA also advises these precautions:

  • Keep people and pets out of your home until the label says it's safe, even if you forgot something inside.
  • Never use more than one bug bomb per room.
  • Open doors and windows upon returning to air out the treated area.

Better yet, try to keep insects out of your home in the first place by removing sources of food and water (such as leaky pipes) and getting rid of breeding sites (such as leaf litter).

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