PARKERSBURG - The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are alerting the public to an emerging national concern regarding misuse of pesticides to treat infestations of bed bugs and other insects indoors.
Some pesticides are being applied indoors even though they are approved only for outdoor use. Even pesticides that are approved for indoor use can cause harm if over applied or not used as instructed on the product label, Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department officials warned.
"We are getting reports from individuals in the county about bed bugs in their homes. I have not been to a home site to see it, but we have found them, over the past two years, in several motels in the six-county area served by the health department, with the majority in Wood County. Wood is the largest county in the health department's coverage area," said Chuck Mapes, sanitarian with the local health department.
Mapes said individuals who are traveling should check the bed they may be sleeping in by pulling back the sheets and looking at the edge of the mattress.
"Sometimes you can see the adult size inspects crawling, the adult size can be up to quarter of an inch in diameter," Mapes said, advising anyone finding the bugs not to stay in the room.
If you suspect you have them at home, Mapes advised first having the bugs correctly identified as bed bugs. This can be done by contacting the West Virginia University Extension Office, 1 Court Square, Suite 408 on the fourth floor of the Wood County Courthouse, hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or call 304-424-1960.
* Check out the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department's website at www.movhd.com or call 304-485-7374 for more information. The department, headquartered at 211 Sixth St., Parkersburg, also has information available.
* On the health department's website, click on the environmental health icon, then click on bed bugs. There are a number of other links to check out for more information on the health department's website.
Once they are identified there are steps you can take including laundering clothing and sheets using hot water and leaving the clothing and sheets in the dryer for an hour at high heat, 113 degrees should kill the eggs and adults, according to health officials.
"Bed bugs have always been around, they live and travel on people, but we have seen a resurgence in the numbers lately. Back in the 1940-1950s, pesticides were effective but many have since been eliminated, there is more travel nowadays and some bed bugs have become resistant to the pesticides," Mapes said.
For more helpful information and links to other sites with information go to www.movhd.com, click on the environmental health icon then on bed bugs. The health department also has information on how to clean up and control bed bugs through the office at 211 Sixth St., Parkersburg, or call 304-485-7374 and ask for Patrick Burke, epidemelogist or Mapes. There is also information available online at epa.gov/bedbugs.
The National Pesticide Information Center reports it has seen an increase in the number of bed bug-related inquiries received over the past several years, with many involving incidents of pesticide exposure, spills, or misapplications.
From January 2006-December 2010, NPIC reported 169 calls to their hotline where residents, homeowners, or pesticide applicators sprayed pesticides indoors to treat bedbugs. These cases involved pesticides that were misapplied, not intended for indoor use, or legally banned from use. Of those, 129 resulted in mild or serious health effects (including one death) for persons living in affected residences.
The Agency for Toxic Substances warns outdoor pesticides should not be used indoors under any circumstances and homeowners and applicators should always carefully read the product label to make sure that it has an Environmental Protection Agency registration number, is intended for indoor use and is effective against bed bugs. The label should say it is meant to be used to treat your home for bed bugs, and you know how to properly mix the product if a concentrate and where and how to apply it safely in the home.
"It is especially dangerous to allow children to reoccupy a home that has had a recent pesticide treatment where surfaces are still wet, or where they can come in direct contact with pesticide dusts," Mapes said. "Children can put objects that have pesticide residue on them in their mouths, and generally put their hands in their mouths and touch their faces more often than adults. Illness in pets after a pest control application is sometimes a first warning that pesticides have been misused or over applied. "
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and CDC, while bed bugs feed on blood and cause itchy bites, they are not known to transmit or spread disease.