April 12, 2023 Matthew S. Hess
Cockroaches, fleas and bed bugs are more than a nuisance and the first sight of either can prompt us to take immediate action. Many people will subsequently purchase bug bombs thinking these are the answer. But are DIY bed bug bombs safe? Do they even work? Often, there is not much though given to these questions. Many assume they are safe because they are sold over-the-counter. Additionally, it is assumed that they work, otherwise why would they be sold in the first place? But there are two major problems with DIY bed bug bombs and those two problems answer both questions:
- They aren’t very effective in the long-term.
- They are dangerous to you, your family and your pets.
Because big-box stores and DIY stores sell bed bug bombs, the average consumer may assume they are safe and effective. Most people, however, never bother to read the label before use. After all, you just place the fogger where you want it, lock the actuator and you’re good to go, right? Well, not hardly. There is a reason why insecticides are required to have usage labels and label restrictions. In fact, these labels are actually the law in the state of Kentucky and many other states! Not only that but they are also designed to keep both you, other people, animals and the environment safe from misuse. Additionally, labels provide helpful insight on where to apply, when to apply, how to apply and frequency of application. Each of these are important to successful control.
Let’s address the two problems with DIY Bed Bug Bombs:
1. They aren’t very effective in the long-term.
One would assume that because a product is sold to address a particular pest problem that it would be effective, and to be fair many are. The problem with DIY bed bug bombs however, is that they are entirely the wrong method for controlling bed bugs to begin with. In fact, I do not know any reputable pest control company who uses foggers (bombs) to control bed bugs. There’s a really good reason why, too; because they are ineffective.
How do DIY Bed Bug Bombs Work?
For starters, let’s clarify that they actually don’t work well at all. However, they are designed to work by totally releasing their contents once actuated. This is where their more professional name, TRF (Total Release Foggers) comes from. As the name suggests, their complete contents are released when actuated. These contents spray in an upward pattern into the space where they are actuated. In this way, the contents are meant to fill the space with a poisonous active ingredient (AI). Ideally, this would kill all the pests in a given space, as long as they contact the AI during its release. These can be effective on some pests, but only some of the immediate pests within the space.
How Effective Are Bug Bombs?
Truth be told, they aren’t very effective. More than anything, they are marketed to homeowners and DIY’ers who don’t know anything about pest control. They are sold as an easy method to rid your home of pests. However, it should be noted that most PCO’s (Pest Control Owners) avoid the use of TRF’s and as a matter of fact, few are marketed to the PCO. There is a legitimate reason why; THEY’RE INEFFECTIVE!
Although the few available commercial grade foggers can be somewhat reliable, here at Four Seasons Pest Solutions, we refuse to use them at all. This is due, in part, to the nature of the TRF. These are designed to be placed in a home, activated, and left to do the job. The problem is that neither professional or DIY bed bug bombs target key harborage areas. Instead, they target the entire space in hopes that the insecticide will reach the harborages. But, you wouldn’t hire a pest company who’s motto was, “We’ll get close killing your bed bugs!” Yet. that’s the same service you get when you purchase and use DIY bed bug bombs or TRF’s!
Although the contents of a TRF disperse and fill the space where they are actuated, there is no targeted application. The insecticide is left to “fall where it may” and that’s not an effective strategy for treatment. The lifecycle and habits of bed bugs make precise applications necessary. Here at Four Seasons, we prefer strategic, targeted treatments to achieve maximum control.
Today’s TRF’s sold to the general public contain reduced rates of AI’s and even inferior AI’s compared to those of yesteryear. These weaker and less effective AI’s often have little to no effects on the targeted pests. Couple the weakened AI’s with the TRF’s inability to reach specific targeted areas and you have yourself a recipe for failure, and nearly every time!
Fleas, cockroaches and bedbugs are among the top contenders for TRF’s. All three of these pests require specific, strategic and targeted inspections and treatments to achieve elimination. None of these pests will be successfully and consistently controlled by cheap, store-bought TRF’s.
Furthermore, those pests which are often listed on the label as target pests, are almost NEVER treated by professionals in the same manner as TRF’s disperse. That’s because many of the target pests found on TRF labels have specific treatment methods and specific actives which in no way closely resemble either the method of TRF’s or the active ingredients. Professional treatments are specific, precise, and on purpose.
Bed bugs (roaches and fleas are included here as well) can become immune to the AI’s in TRF’s which can make them even harder to control later on. Flea larvae and eggs may never even be exposed to the AI’s since they can live deep in carpets and upholsteries. Bed bugs and eggs may never be affected by the AI’s because of their ability to hide deep in cracks and crevices the width of only the thickness of a business card. Roaches hide well too, and are known to fall over and appear seemingly dead after a TRF treatment only to later be found alive and managing to walk away.
Although dead bugs will be found after a TRF treatment is completed, many live ones will remain, especially those which were well hidden. Those insects which were not killed by the TRF’s AI, may now have immunity to the product. Once an insect like bed bugs are immune to an AI, their offspring will no longer be affected by that product regardless of the brand name attached to it. Therefore, subsequent treatments will no longer kill the insects. This is why many homeowners perform the initial treatment and think the results were fantastic only to find out that subsequent treatments, have almost no affect and the population only gets worse. Now it can be nearly impossible for the homeowner to correct the issue without professional assistance.
As if it weren’t enough that DIY bed bug bombs often fail, their costs are also not cheap. Many customers report having spent in excess of 2-4 thousand dollars on treatments, hotel stays, furniture replacement and other expenses associated with DIY treatments. Most professional treatments will cost less than this and will have the added benefit of salvaging furniture and offering warranties in many cases. In fact, Four Seasons has the added benefit of offering exceptional limited lifetime warranties to qualifying customers.
2. They are dangerous to you, your family and your pets.
One would assume that because a product is sold to address a particular pest problem that it would be effective. And, to be fair, many are. The problem with DIY bed bug bombs, however, is that they are entirely the wrong method for controlling bed bugs to begin with. In fact, I do not know any reputable pest control company who uses TRF’s to control bed bugs. There’s a really good reason why, too; because they don’t work.
Are DIY Bug Bombs Safe?
Bug bombs or TRF’s can pose a serious health risk to humans and pets. They can also cause significant damage to homes and other indoor settings. In 2012, the EPA required manufacturers to begin placing improved labels on TRF’s due to their risk for causing acute illnesses.
During 2007 – 2015, a total of 3,222 acute TRF-related illnesses were reported in only 10 U.S. states which participate in the SENSOR Pesticides program and other state programs. This is public information found on the CDC’s website https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6704a4.htm.
The main causes for illnesses reported were
- Failure to vacate premises during treatment
- Early re-entry of treated premises
- Excessive fogger (TRF) use
These illnesses are occurring among homeowners and DIY’ers who have no formal training on the use of pesticides and have failed to read and adhere to the label. High concentrations of bug bomb contents evacuated into a home can also be a fire hazard. Many DIY’ers fail to read the entire label and do not turn off pilot lights before treating.
It is not recommended that any homeowners us bug bombs or TRF’s to treat for pests. The risks are much higher than the rewards, especially for those who fail to read the label. Though the EPA has mandated new labeling laws, there are no current restrictions on the use of TRF’s by homeowners and therefore illnesses continue to occur.
What Illnesses Can TRF’s Cause?
Getting sick from the use of TRF’s can be both a miserable experience and a potentially life-threatening one. Exposure to the chemicals and insecticides found in TRF’s can result in allergy symptoms, asthma attacks, breathing complications, headaches, Eye irritation, skin problems, coughing, sore throat, nose irritation, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting and even death.
How Do I Know If I Have Been Poisoned By TRF’s
Pesticide poisoning symptoms differ based on the product active ingredient, route of exposure and level of exposure. TRF’s are generally dangerous because people breath in the toxic vapors. Entry of insecticides through the nose is a serious exposure and should result in a visit to the doctor right away. Misuse of TRF’s can make humans and animals very sick and even cause death.
The four common routes of entry in which pesticides exposer may occur include:
- Inhalation (nose or mouth)
- Oral (accidental ingestion)
- Dermal (skin)
- Ocular (eyes)
Serious exposure symptoms may cause incontinence, unconsciousness, seizures and even death. We will focus on mild and moderate exposures, and their symptoms. This rate of exposure will usually see symptoms within 1 hour of initial exposure but could come as much as 12 hours after exposure. In no particular order, these symptoms may include but are not limited to:
- Excessive teary eyes and blurred vision
- Miosis of the pupils (pinpoint pupils)
- Excessive sweating
- Excessive production of saliva
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach cramps
- Slowed heartbeat (under 50BPM)
- Rippling of surface muscles under the skin
- Inability to walk or stand
- Chest pain, chest tightness or chest discomfort
- Severe miosis of the pupils (pinpoint pupils)
- Muscle twitching
- Involuntary bowel movements and urination
What To Do Incase of Exposure to TRF’s or Other Insecticides
- If you or someone you know, have been exposed to TRF insecticides through breathing them in, ingesting them or contact with the eyes or skin, seek medical attention.
- If any signs of exposure follow, call 911 right away.
- If the person has inhaled insecticides, move him or her to fresh air, monitor, and wait for first responders to arrive.
- If the route of exposure was dermal (skin) remove contaminated clothing, wash skin and hair with soap and water, rinse with lots of water and wait for assistance to arrive.
- If the eyes have been exposed, flush with water for a minimum of 25 minutes, keeping eyes open while flushing. Await medical assistance.
- If swallowed or ingested, call 911 and poison control immediately. Follow their instructions.
- To reach The PCC (Poison Control Center) call 1-800-222-1222.
What Insecticides Are Safe for DIY’ers?
Rather than detail the many ways in which insecticides can be dangerous, we will simply state that the use of insecticides by untrained persons is a risk to everyone involved. In our estimation, a safe insecticide is one in the hands of an individual who has been trained to properly use it. Anything less is dangerous. No pesticide is a safe pesticide when it is in the hands of someone who may misuse it. Exposing yourself and others to insecticides you are unfamiliar with is dangerous and should be avoided.
Here at Four Seasons Pest Solutions, we have a fully trained and qualified staff ready to tackle even the toughest pest infestations. There is no need to risk your health or the health of those you love by potential misuse of insecticides. The purpose of pest control is to make the environment you are in safer and friendlier. DIY products do not always yield those results and can have quite the opposite effect in many cases.
Trust your health and the health of those you love to professionals who are trained to safely and judicially apply pesticides.
Remember, it’s okay to live among pests… but you don’t have to live with them!
You must be logged in to post a comment.