PDT Staff Writer
Andy Gedeon, director of Environmental Health at the Portsmouth Health Department, says people mixing chemicals or using pesticides off a store shelf to attempt to exterminate bed bugs are endangering their family and their pets.
“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) just issued an alert that there has been a lot of cases of pesticide poisoning or pesticide exposure, due to self-treatment of bed bugs,” Gedeon said.
Gedeon said people are going to hardware stores and buying pesticides off the shelf, bringing the pesticide into their homes and spraying the interior of their homes. He said that, according to the Ohio Department of Health, there is no product that can be purchased across the counter that is effective in the treatment of bed bugs.
“Some people are even taking pesticides that are only for outdoor use and using those inside,” Gedeon said. “People who have no training and no certification are trying to treat themselves in an attempt to save money.”
Gedeon said exposure to these chemicals can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, trembling of the limbs. He said exposure to those chemicals are especially dangerous for children because of their tendency to put their fingers in their mouths.
“This happens especially if there is some kind of pesticide residue on toys,” Gedeon said. “They will pick up the toys and put them in their mouth.”
Gedeon said the alert gave an example of a family that came back into the home after they had treated it for bed bugs, and placed their children on a mattress that was still wet from the chemicals.
“That child had pesticide exposure, it became ill, and had to be taken to the hospital,” Gedeon said.
Gedeon said any treatment for bed bugs should be done by licensed pest control professionals. He said people should ask any pest control company if they are licensed to deal with the pesticides that kill bed bugs.
“Make sure that they are licensed,” Gedeon said. “If you have any questions on that, they should be able to provide the documentation. They need to be licensed in Ohio to apply pesticides.”
Gedeon said there is a pesticide that professionals use.
“It takes several applications. They can’t just come in once and spray and be done,” Gedeon said. “Some companies do have a heat treatment process where they actually heat up the inside of the home to a certain temperature that actually kills the bed bugs.”
Gedeon said anyone who has a professional company use pesticides to deal with bed bugs should still take precautions.
“You want to give the pesticide enough time to take effect,” Gedeon said. “You don’t want to come in there with the residue still fresh on the furniture, on any kind of toys. You don’t want to sit on any furniture that is still wet from the pesticide spray, especially with young children or babies that are in a crib. You want to make sure that everything is dry. You don’t want to lay them down on any wet mattresses.” He said people should not clean the area with bleach, in that it causes a chemical reaction with the pesticide
Gedeon said no one is immune to the presence of bed bugs. He said there are some things people can do when they stay at a hotel.
“You want to leave your luggage out in the hallway. You don’t want to bring it in right away,” Gedeon said. “You want to pull all the sheets back on the mattress - look for any kind of red, reddish, or kind of a black stain on the mattress. That indicates that there has been some bed bug infestation. You want to look behind the headboard or anything on the wall Don’t put your luggage on the floor. You want to leave it either on the dresser drawer or on the luggage rack. Any clothes that you change, you want to put them into a bag and tie those. And once you get home, you want to take the clothes that you wore in the hotel during that stay and put them immediately in the dryer, and dry those on high for 20 minutes. That should kill the bed bugs.”
“We’ve seen a rise in at least the number of phone calls that we receive. Nationally it is on the rise,” Gedeon said. “From here in Portsmouth, up to Columbus, down to Cincinnati, and up to Cleveland, there’s a rise in the number of bed bug cases.”
Gedeon said before any chemicals are used, they need to be looked at for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identification number, and people need to make sure the pesticide is intended for inside use.
“In the alert the CDC put out, there have been several instances where they have had pesticides that were for outdoor use, being used by people indoors,” Gedeon said. “Most importantly, don’t self-treat. Try to get a licensed pest control operator. Basically - don’t try to do it yourself.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.