Be careful trying to kill bedbugs on your own

Be careful trying to kill bedbugs on your own

By Ivan Penn, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Saturday, November 6, 2010

With the knowledge that some seemingly mythical bug actually might bite us while we sleep, a new fear has arisen: the impact of the pesticides needed to kill them.

Bedbugs die hard. The little creepy crawlers generally take heavy doses of chemicals to get rid of them, though some companies offer a non-toxic option they say works better than the more harmful industrial strength pest control products.

So what’s a consumer to do?

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plans to issue a consumer warning in the coming week, admonishing Floridians not to take the do-it-yourself approach to battling bedbugs because of the difficulty in destroying them and the risk of health hazards from toxic chemicals.

“You’re dealing with a matter that requires a good dose of chemical, and you don’t want to do that in your house,” said Terry McElroy, a spokesman for the department. “You really want a pest control professional.”

Retail stores have begun offering over-the-counter products to battle bedbugs, and some companies are offering pesticides online. The state says be cautious about the offers.

Tom Sexaur runs Florida Fresh, a St. Petersburg company that has been offering a “nontoxic” product that he says kills bedbugs and their eggs on contact. His website stated that the product, called EcoBugFree, was “100% non-toxic.”

But Sexaur changed his website and labeling after inquiries by the St. Petersburg Times.

By U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Standards, the product is considered “nontoxic,” Sexaur says. “It’s a minimal risk pesticide. It just works differently. We literally break down the exoskeleton.”

Les Bridwell, vice president of sales for K-4 Products, which manufactures EcoBugFree, says 100 percent nontoxic would not be an accurate way to describe the product. But Bridwell maintains that because the product’s toxicity is below EPA levels of concern, it is safe for consumers.

It is sold in bottles as small as 3 ounces for $9.99.

“All of our ingredients are generally regarded as safe,” Bridwell says.

But Steve Dwinell, assistant director of the state’s Division of Agricultural and Environmental Services, says it takes “a mixture of techniques” to control bedbugs, including a toxic pesticide.

“If it’s nontoxic, how does it kill?” Dwinell said of products such as EcoBugFree. “All pesticides are toxic. That’s what makes them work.”

The National Pest Management Association says there are a variety of bedbugs with varying levels of tolerance to pesticides.

“Bedbugs are the single most difficult pest to eliminate,” said Missy Henriksen, a spokeswoman for the association. “They can live in hiding for up to a year.

“All I can say is to take the advice our mothers used to give: ‘If it sounds to good to be true, take caution,'” Henriksen said.

So here’s the Edge:

• Avoid using heavily toxic chemicals on your own. One of the safest ways to handle a bedbug problem is to hire a licensed professional to do the job, because they are held accountable for the job they do through state regulation.

• Get more than one estimate. Ridding your home of bedbugs can take more than one treatment. To avoid getting overcharged, get three estimates from licensed pest control professionals.

• Be cautious about over-the-counter treatments. There are a growing number of products offering a solution to bedbug problems at retail outlets. Save time and money by researching the product and the company before you buy.


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One Response to “Be careful trying to kill bedbugs on your own”

  1. Keith Says:

    Great info and yes they are spreading quickly so everyone take care..

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