Bed Bug Cure is Worse Than the Bite

Bed bugs do not transmit disease or cause illness — but the insecticides used to kill them do.

A total of 111 illnesses associated with bed bug-related insecticides were reported in seven states between 2003 and 2010 (mostly in the last three years), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday.

Most cases of poisoning were not severe, but the data included one death.

In nearly 40% of cases of insecticide-related illness, extermination was attempted by consumers who weren’t certified to use pesticides. The problem is only being made worse by bed bugs’ increasing resistance to commonly available pesticides, the CDC said, which may further drive people’s misuse of toxic chemicals.

CDC and EPA promote integrated pest management (IPM) for bed bug control. IPM is an effective pest control method that uses information on the life cycle of the pest and incorporates nonchemical and chemical methods. Nonchemical methods to effectively control bed bugs include heating infested rooms to 118°F (48°C) for 1 hour or cooling rooms to 3°F (-16°C) for 1 hour by professional applicators; encasing mattresses and box springs with bed bug–excluding covers; and vacuuming, steaming, laundering, and disposing of infested items.

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