- While knowledge on current pesticides is limited to case and animal studies, research indicates the top three commercial bed bug sprays all contain ingredients that are toxic to humans.
- Many pesticides contain pyrethroids, an ingredient linked to 111 acute illness cases in a single study (Jacobson, 2011).
- As testing on humans is unethical, research must be conducted on animals. Two of the top pesticides include ingredients that have shrunk the brains of mammals, causing scientists to believe that the impacts may be similar in humans (Carrington, 2013).
As last time, pest control sprays have proven to cause carcinogenic effects in the past (EPA; Zimmer, 2018). This has led to the transition to newer sprays that have been less effective as bugs have developed a thicker cuticle shell to form a resistance to these chemicals (Lilly et al. 2016).
Besides these chemicals’ ineffectiveness compared to older sprays such as DDT, they still include active ingredients which are known to be toxic for humans. Here, we highlight the three most popular products used by professionals as of 2015 (NMPA, 2018).
Temprid: Used by 57% of Pest Control Workers
Temprid utilizes two primary ingredients: imidacloprid and beta-cyfluthrin, a synthetic pyrethroid. While these ingredients could be lethal for pests, both have been shown to cause poisoning in humans. As aforementioned, knowledge is limited due to the ethical concerns of testing these products on humans, but case studies provide excellent insights.
One case study showed the potential for imidacloprid exposure through inhalation, causing drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, and fever with another case resulting in a suicide attempt due to the severity of the symptoms (Kumar et al. 2013). These effects align with those conducted on animals as well, which also show brain shrinkage in rats (Carrington, 2013). Given the high prevalence of brain disorders in the senior living population, imidacloprid could exacerbate these conditions for an already vulnerable population.
Meanwhile, more knowledge is known about pyrethroids. A CDC study tracked pyrethroid exposures from 2003-2010 in seven states and linked 111 acute illness cases to the pesticide, including one death (Jacobson, 2011).
Phantom: Used by 32% of Pest Control Workers
Similar to imidacloprid, our knowledge of Phantom’s active ingredient, chlorfenapyr, is limited to a few case studies. However, consequences are severe; of the cases scientists have documented, eight out of twenty-four patients died following their exposure (Kang et al. 2014). While also featuring symptoms including nausea, vomiting, fever, and mental state changes, patients who have been exposed to chlorfenapyr must be monitored carefully due to its high fatality rate.
Transport: Used by 30% of Pest Control Workers
Like Temprid, Transport has two active ingredients: bifenthrin, a pyrethroid like Temprid’s beta-cyfluthrin and acetamiprid. As detailed above, pyrethroids have been linked to several cases of acute illnesses, but more research is available on bifenthrin particularly. In laboratory studies, in low amounts, bifenthrin caused nervous system damage including symptoms such as tremors. At high levels, these animals developed bladder cancer, suggesting carcinogenic effects (Minnesota Department of Health).
Scientists have also found evidence that acetamiprid, like Temprid’s imidacloprid, is linked to brain shrinkage as well as reduced weight, survival, and responsiveness to sounds in mammals and believe the impacts could apply to humans as well (Carrington, 2013).
Overall, even today’s pesticides feature ingredients known to be dangerous. The vulnerable elderly population may be at higher risk due to their comorbidities, and facilities should do all in their power to reduce the chance of exposure.
Next time… Litigation and regulation is significant in the senior living industry. Especially during the age of COVID-19, this regulation will likely increase in coming years. We will look into a few of these cases when it comes to pest control regulation.
“Bifenthrin Screening Profile.” CONTAMINANTS OF EMERGING CONCERN PROGRAM. Minnesota Department of Health, n.d.
Carrington, Damian. “Bee Pesticides May ‘Harm Developing Brains of Unborn Babies.’” The Guardian, December 17, 2013. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/17/bee-pesticides-harmful-children.
EPA. “DDT-A Brief History.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/ddt-brief-history-and-status
Jacobson, James. “Acute Illnesses Associated With Insecticides Used to Control Bed Bugs — Seven States, 2003–2010.” Centers for Disease Control 60, no. 36 (September 23, 2011): 1269–74.
Kang, Changwoo, Dong Kim, Seong Chun Kim, and Dong Seob Kim. “A Patient Fatality Following the Ingestion of a Small Amount of Chlorfenapyr.” Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock 7, no. 3 (September 2014): 239–41. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-2700.136874.
Kumar, Alok, Archana Verma, and Adarsh Kumar. “Accidental Human Poisoning with a Neonicotinoid Insecticide, Imidacloprid: A Rare Case Report from Rural India with a Brief Review of Literature.” Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences 3, no. 4 (December 2013): 123–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejfs.2013.05.002.
Lilly, David, Sharissa Latham, Cameron Webb, and Stephen Doggett. “Cuticle Thickening in a Pyrethroid-Resistant Strain of the Common Bed Bug, Cimex Lectularius Cimex Lectularius L. (Hemiptera: Cimicidae).” PLoS One 11, no. 3 (2016).
NPMA. “Leading Products Used by Pest Control Workers in the U.S. to Control Bed Bugs as of 2015.” United States: University of Kentucky, 2015.
Zimmer, Katarina. “How Toxic Is the World’s Most Popular Herbicide Roundup?” The Scientist, February 6, 2018. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/how-toxic-is-the-worlds-most-popular-herbicide-roundup-30308.
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