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Allergies Health Center

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Bug Bombs Can Also Harm Humans

Researchers Track More Than 400 Injuries From Total Release Foggers in 2001-2006
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 16, 2008 -- Total release foggers (TRF) -- more commonly known as "bug bombs" -- are designed to kill bugs and pests, but they can also harm humans.

A new report published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows there were 466 TRF-related injuries or illnesses in the eight states that track this (Florida, California, New York, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, and Washington) between 2001 and 2006.

Eighty percent of the cases were classified as low severity, 18% were moderate severity, and 2% were high severity. There was one infant death that may be linked to a TRF: A 10-month-old slept in a home that had been treated with a TRF that day. The infant was found dead the next morning.

Illnesses usually followed one of the following scenarios: too many TRFs were used for the space; neighbors were not notified (such as in an apartment building where units shared a ventilation system); or people returned home too soon after using the TRFs or didn't leave home before the TRF discharged.

Most effects were to the respiratory system. Symptoms suffered by people in three cases detailed in the report included nausea, shortness of breath, leg cramps, burning eyes, coughing, irritation of upper airway, headache, and dizziness.

"The findings indicate that TRFs pose a risk for acute, usually temporary health effects among users and bystanders," the report states. "To reduce the risk for TRF-related health effects, integrated pest management control strategies that prevent pests' access to food, water, and shelter need to be promoted and adopted. In addition, awareness of the hazards and proper use of TRFs need to be better communicated on TRF labels and in public media campaigns."

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