There's just no way around it — bed bugs are disgusting. They are not, however, indicative of a lack of cleanliness or poor hygiene. Bed bugs are attracted to warmth, carbon dioxide and blood. Once they have found your home, you need to institute a program that includes cleaning, pesticides and prevention to get rid of them. Using pesticides requires taking certain steps to ensure they are not dangerous.
Over-the-counter pesticides contain chemicals that kill pests. By definition, these chemicals are poisonous. The Environmental Protection Agency reviews some pesticides to ensure they do not contain banned chemicals that are too dangerous to humans, and that the concentration of chemicals in the pesticide is acceptable. These products bear an EPA registration number. But any pesticide could be harmful if not used properly.
Choose the Correct Pesticide
Use only pesticides meant to kill bed bugs. Spraying your mattress or house with a product that is not labeled to kill bed bugs exposes you to chemicals that may harm your health. The EPA lists dozens of pesticides that have met EPA standards and are effective for bed bugs. The active ingredients in these pesticides include 2-Phenethyl propionate, Bioallethrin, Cyphenothrin, Deltamethrin, Dichlorvos, Esfenvalerate, MGK 264*, Permethrin, Phenothrin, Piperonyl butoxide, Propoxur, Pyriproxyfen, Resmethrin and Tetramethrin.
Dangers of Bed Bug Pesticide Chemicals
The chemicals used to kill bed bugs can cause symptoms including dizziness, difficulty breathing, seizures, loss of consciousness, eye irritation, skin irritation or rash, contact dermatitis, sweating, headache, nausea. The severity of effects depends on how long and how concentrated the exposure was. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of these chemicals can do permanent physical damage or even lead to death.
If you suspect that you or someone in your family has been poisoned by any of these pesticides call 911 if the person is having trouble breathing, is unconscious or is having convulsions. Call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. As the American Association of Poison Control Centers says, "Don't guess. Be sure."
- Environmental Protection Agency; Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety
- Environmental Protection Agency; Using Pesticides Safely
- Bed Bugs: Infestation
- Bed Bugs: Bed Bugs Information
- Environmental Protection Agency: Pesticides Health & Safety
- Environmental Protection Agency: Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings
- Environmental Protection Agency; Top Ten Bed Bug Tips
- Environmental Protection Agency; EPA-Registered Bed Bug Products; Bed Bug Search Tool
- American Association of Poison Control Centers