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Does Using Bug Bombs and Bug Sprays in Your Home Pose a Health Risk?


Almost nobody actively welcomes “creepy crawlies” into their home, but they tend to find their way in anyway. One shocking survey discovered that 84 percent of American households have some sort of pest problem every year. Ants are by far the most common offender, followed by spiders, flies, mosquitoes, mice, and wasps. Less common pests like bed bugs, head lice, ticks, and of course cockroaches — which the people responding to the survey may have harbored in their homes without even knowing it — may be even worse.


What do you do when you have bugs in your home? If you have young children or pets like cats or dogs, you may first investigate more natural bug repelling options. Once they (nearly inevitably) fail to produce the desired results, however, you will likely find yourself reaching for more conventional options in the form of bug sprays and bug bombs. Do you need to be worried that bug bombs and bug sprays will pose a risk to your health, or harm more vulnerable members of your household?


What Are Bug Bombs?


“Bug bombs” or “foggers” are officially called total release foggers or TRFs. These pest-control systems use aerosol propellants to release a fine mist of pesticides into a given space with the goal of covering a whole area in one easy step. Many contain the effective pesticide pyrethrin, which is known to be successful in fighting pests that include cockroaches, bed bugs, fleas, silverfish, ants, and spiders, among other pests.


As an alternative to having a professional fumigation performed, the use of a bug bomb is more affordable. These total release foggers can also, on the other hand, be quite hazardous in themselves. It is, therefore, important to take the appropriate safety precautions as you get ready to use a bug bomb to try to eliminate a nasty household pest infestation.


Total release foggers tend to work either by pressing a tab, or by removing a tab. Before activating the bug bomb, the user would place it in the center of a room, typically on a higher space such as a table. The pesticide in the fogger is then released in the form of fine droplets, which rise to the top of the room, where they remain in the air for a time before gradually settling down to reach all exposed surfaces in the space — so long, that is, as the user calculated the cubic feet correctly.


Are Bug Bombs Effective?


Bug bombs can be quite effective at repelling insects and arachnids that do not tend to hide very well, such as spiders. However, the most bothersome bugs, such as bed bugs and cockroaches, are masters at staying out of sight during the day — spending their time, instead, in spaces that the total release fogger is unlikely to reach. Using a bug bomb may eliminate the visible presence of pests for a time, but that does not mean that those pests are no longer present on your property. Many reputable organizations, from the Environmental Protection Agency (which warns that they are classified as Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds) to the National Pesticide Information Center, are clear about the fact that total release foggers should not be anyone’s first pest control step.


Do Bug Bombs Pose a Health Risk to Humans and Pets?


Bug bombs pose a variety of health risks to humans and pets alike. Among them are the facts that:


  • You and members of your household may inhale the pesticide contained in the bug bomb. It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to vacate the space for the recommended period of time, or even longer — just as you would if you had your home professionally fumigated.
  • You and members of your household may ingest the pesticide in the fogger. Unless you follow instructions by removing any cutlery, crockery, drinking glasses, pet food bowls, and foodstuffs from the space where you are using the fogger, you are at risk.
  • Total release foggers are highly flammable. If you use an open flame, ignite your stove, or use any electrical appliance, near the bug bomb, you risk an explosion that could have devastating consequences.
  • The pesticide will settle onto any exposed fabrics — like bedding, tablecloths, curtains, toys belonging to pets and children, and furniture. You will have to cover all of these or remove them from the space to safely use a bug bomb.


To use a fogger correctly, make sure that you calculate the dimensions of the space and only use the recommended amount. Remove all toys, fabrics, and eating utensils from the area, and let your entire household know that you are planning to fight pests with a total release fogger. Do not return home before a safe amount of time has passed, and when you do, open all your windows.


Even when used correctly, in the right quantities, bug bombs may trigger allergy-like respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath, sneezing, eye, nose, and throat irritation. It is also important to be aware that young children are at risk of accidentally activating foggers before you intended to use them, and they should therefore be kept out of reach.


What About Bug Sprays?


Bug sprays, or insect repellents, pose a similar risk on a smaller scale. They offer the advantage of being flexible and portable enough to be able to reach hidden areas such as the space below kitchen cabinets, potentially rendering them more effective.


Fighting Household Pests: What Are Your Alternatives?


The Environmental Protection Agency recommends, along with every other reputable health and pest control organization, that households first take steps to tackle the underlying causes of pest infestations, and to only consider bug sprays, bug bombs, and professional fumigation if those do not work.


Like every other living organism, insects, arachnids like spiders, and other pests like mice and scorpions, have certain requirements to be able to live. That means food and water. Pests like cockroaches thrive in spaces where they have constant access to these basic life requirements, and then rapidly multiply.


Leaving no food out, ever, is step number one in fighting bugs. That obviously means clearing your kitchen counters immediately and putting your stored food into the fridge or into air-tight containers. Have you considered the possibility that your pets’ food sources are also feeding unwanted little guests, however? Try removing any pet’s food 10 to 15 minutes after offering them the meal, and safely storing it away.


Pests’ water source may come from condensation in chronically humid rooms like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens, but also from undiscovered leaks in pipes or in your roof. A sudden and noticeable influx of insects and other bugs can alert you to a potential problem in this area. By taking care of the source of the problem, you also make your home inhospitable to all but the most persistent bugs — all without ever needing to turn to toxic pesticides.


Does a Pest Problem Mean You Could Also Have a Mold Infestation in Your Home?


Water damage and high humidity levels are true bug magnets. If you have household pests, you may be dealing with leaky pipes in hidden areas. There may be a problem with the caulking in your bathroom. Your gutter may have a leak. Your home may recently have been impacted by a flood. You could also have chronically-excessive humidity levels in your home, particularly during winter months when you use heating, or if you air dry your laundry indoors.


All these factors invite bugs of all kinds in, but they also pose another risk. Mold, too, thrives in these same humid and wet conditions. Mold infestations are a widespread problem within residential homes. Although mold can often be seen and smelled, in which case it is in many cases easily recognizable by its musty odor, mold can also accumulate in hidden spots — deep in your walls, where the roaches also hide.


If you have bugs in your home, and you know you have a moisture or humidity problem, you may also be dealing with a mold infestation. Turning to professional help is your very best option in both cases. MI&T can, as a nationwide mold inspection only company, carry out a thorough visual inspection of your home. We then take air samples that determine precisely what types of mold may be present, and in which quantities. After the lab analysis comes back, homeowners will gain all the information they need to remediate their mold infestation — which ultimately means eliminating excess moisture from their homes.


As you remediate a mold problem, chances are that those nasty bugs will soon follow, even if you never buy a bug bomb.