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'Bug Bombs' Causing Injury

466 cases, including one baby's death, are linked to the repellent 'foggers,' U.S. report finds

THURSDAY, Oct. 16, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Between 2001 and 2006, commercial "bug bomb" insect deterrents caused 466 cases of acute pesticide-related illness or injury in eight states, U.S. researchers reported Thursday.

The most common symptoms suffered by users and bystanders were cough, shortness of breath, and upper airway irritation. There was one suspicious death.

Bug bombs, also known as total release foggers (TRFs), are designed to fill an area with insecticide in order to kill cockroaches, fleas and flying insects. Most of these products contain pyrethroid, pyrethrin or both as active ingredients. The products also contain flammable aerosol propellants that can cause fires or explosions, the researchers said.

Eighty percent of cases in the report were classified as low severity, 18 percent were moderate severity, and 2 percent were high severity. One death classified by the Washington State Department of Health as suspicious occurred in a female infant aged 10 months who was put to bed the evening of the day her apartment was treated with three TRFs. The infant was found dead the next morning, the study said.

Twenty-one people were hospitalized for between one day and 35 days, and 43 people had to take time off work or stop doing other usual activities because of their TRF-related illness or injury.

The preventable bug bomb exposures identified in this study sometimes occurred in workplaces (13 percent), but predominately in private residences (85 percent). These exposures to users (51 percent) and bystanders, according to the report, were often due to: failure to vacate after the TRF was discharged; excessive use of TRFs for the space being treated; accidental discharge; and failure to notify others nearby.

The median age of those affected was 35 years, and 57 percent were female. Three cases involved pregnant women, and about 44 cases involved people with asthma.

The eight states included in the study were California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington, all of which participate in the SENSOR-Pesticides program.

The findings indicate that bug bombs pose a risk for acute, usually temporary health effects, said the researchers. They suggested a number of ways to reduce the risk, including better communication about the hazards and proper use of TRFs on product labels and in public media campaigns. In addition, there should be promotion and adoption of integrated pest management control strategies that prevent pests' access to food, water and shelter.

The study appears in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines safety precautions for total release foggers.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Oct. 16, 2008
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