Are Bug Bombs Safe?

When you see a cockroach scurry away in your kitchen, it’s tempting to go out and purchase a bug bomb, also known as a fogger. However, total release foggers (TRF) or bug bombs aren’t that effective at killing pests. What’s more, they can also put your family, pets, and home at serious risk.

How do bug bombs work?

Bug bombs, or foggers, spray pesticides into the air within a confined space. The idea is that the pesticides will come into contact with pests, either directly or on surfaces coated in pesticides.

To activate a bug bomb, there is usually a tab that is removed or depressed, causing the aerosol can’s contents to release upward. Aerosol droplets remain suspended in the air for a period of time before settling on floors, countertops, and other surfaces.

Foggers can be purchased over the counter and are advertised to kill pests such as fleas and cockroaches.

Are bug bombs effective?

Flea and cockroach foggers are not effective, especially when weighing the health risks they pose to your household. The main reason for their inefficiency is that the chemicals released from foggers fail to contact pests at their source.

Flea eggs and larvae tend to hide within carpet fibers, and cockroaches tend to congregate on the underside of surfaces, inside cabinets, and within cracks and crevices. Chemicals from the bug bombs don’t reach those key areas.

Instead, toxic residue lands on surfaces most used by humans and pets, such as floors, countertops and cabinets.

Furthermore, some of the chemicals within foggers are not effective in controlling pests and pests are able to resist the active ingredients.

A recent study completed by North Carolina State found bug bombs to be ineffective at killing cockroaches. After testing foggers containing different active ingredients in 20 different homes infested with cockroaches, researchers found that roach populations didn’t decline over a two-week period.

Are bug bombs safe?

Bug bombs are generally not safe to use and pose significant health risks to humans, pets and homes, even when used correctly.

The CDC completed a 10-state study on fogger-related injuries and found more than 3,200 cases of bomb-related illnesses over an eight-year period. These incidents included respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiac, and neurological illnesses as well as eye and skin conditions. About 20 of those cases were life-threatening and four resulted in death.

Furthermore, high concentrations of fogger chemicals are flammable and can cause fires in the home.

Besides the chemicals in bug bombs being dangerous, people tend to use them incorrectly. The study found that exposure to fogger pesticides increases for people who do not follow the instructions, including those who do not vacate the house when foggers are in use, or who re-enter the house too soon. Because of this, the EPA has required all fogger manufacturers to update their labels, providing clearer instructions with illustrations depicting the safe use of these products.

Can I get sick from using a fogger?

Yes, you can get sick from using a fogger and breathing in chemicals and pesticides. This can result in nose and throat irritation, trouble breathing, coughing, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and allergy symptoms. If chemicals and pesticides come in contact with your eyes, it can cause serious eye damage.

People with asthma or respiratory conditions are much more at risk since bug bombs can trigger asthma attacks and severe respiratory reactions requiring emergency medical care.

Young children and pets are also at greater risk because they spend the most time near or on the floor and are more likely to put items in their mouths.

Signs of bug bomb poisoning

The symptoms of pesticide poisoning can vary based on the levels of exposure and the areas of the body that are exposed. It’s helpful if you can provide emergency responders with the name of the fogger.

Mild exposure usually results in the onset of symptoms within 12 hours of initial contact with the pesticide, with symptoms most often occurring within the first four hours. Symptoms can include

  • Headache, fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea
  • Blurred vision associated with excessive tearing
  • Contracted pupils
  • Excessive sweating and salivation
  • Slowed heartbeat, often fewer than 50 beats per minute;
  • Rippling of surface muscles just under the skin.

Moderate pesticide exposure can include mild symptoms as well as

  • Inability to walk
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Muscle twitching
  • Involuntary urination and bowel movement

Severe poisonings result in incontinence, unconsciousness, and seizures.

What to do if you are exposed to bug bomb pesticides

You can be exposed to pesticides by breathing them in, ingesting them (with food or water), or having them come into contact with your skin or eyes. Regardless of the level of exposure, if any signs of mild, moderate, or severe poisoning become apparent, seek medical attention right away by calling 911. You can also call the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 for help with first aid information.

If you or someone you know has inhaled a bug bomb, immediately move the person to fresh air.

If your skin has been exposed, drench the area with water and remove contaminated clothing. Wash skin and hair thoroughly with soap and water. If your eyes are exposed, keep them open as you rinse them with clean running water for 15 minutes. 

If you’ve ingested poison, contact 911 immediately. Emergency personnel on the phone may instruct you to induce vomiting.

Alternatives to bug foggers

There are many types of pesticides and traps that are at least as effective as bug bombs. Unlike bug bombs, these alternatives do not put you in direct contact with chemicals, nor do they require you to vacate your home.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder made from fossilized diatoms. Diatomaceous earth can be used for different purposes, including as a pesticide, and also as medical or a food-grade products. To use DE to eliminate pests, purchase pesticide-grade diatomaceous earth, and follow the instructions carefully. DE is generally considered non-toxic, but may be harmful when breathed in – this is why it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Glue Traps

Glue traps can be effective for catching insects and small rodents, but to work they must be placed strategically. Install glue traps in locations where pests are often seen in your home. If there seems to be no pattern to their behavior — in other words, you see the pests all over your home — place the glue traps in environments the pests are known to prefer. For example, roaches like to hide in dark, warm places. To use glue traps to catch roaches, place them under cabinets, under your stove, and under your refrigerator. 

With glue traps, you can only catch so many insects. They must be replaced regularly, as dust and grime can cause the glue to lose its stickiness. Glue traps are not an effective pest control method when used alone; use glue traps with other forms of pest control, like gel baits.

Insect Gels

Insect gels are essentially toxic baits for pests like roaches. Insect gels are easy to apply to areas where insects live, and can quickly decimate an insect population in your home. Not all insect gels work for all types of insects, so it’s important to ensure that the gel you choose is effective for the type of insect you’re struggling to control.

How professional services are safer and more effective

It’s not always clear what you should do about a pest infestation in your home. There are many products on the market, but not all of them are effective or safe. Hiring a professional is the easiest way to ensure that your pest problem will be eliminated safely and effectively.

Pest control professionals have a deeper understanding of how to properly use pesticides, and therefore they know how to use lower quantities of toxic active ingredients than homeowners taking a DIY approach. Professionals also know more about the pests themselves, and can strategically place pesticides where they’ll be  most effective.

If you’re struggling with a pest infestation in your home, contact Carolina Pest Management. For over 80 years, we’ve helped homeowners protect their homes from unwanted infestations. Call today to find out more.

By Kristin Dodd

Kristin Dodd, the President of Carolina Pest Management, has been with the company full-time for over 20 years, but has been a part of the family-owned business for much longer. She is currently an active board member of the North Carolina Pest Management Association, and was the President from 2010-2011. She is a licensed operator in...

Related Posts