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How to Use a Bug Bomb to Treat a Pest Problem in Your Home

Important Precautions to Keep Your Family and Property Safe

By

Aerosol spray canister invented by USDA researchers.

Aerosol spray canister invented by USDA researchers.

Photo courtesy USDA.

Bug bombs, or total release foggers, fill a confined space with pesticides using an aerosol propellant. People tend to think of these products as quick and easy fixes to home insect infestations. In truth, few insect pests can be wiped out using bug bombs, so you need to know when it's appropriate to use them.

Used incorrectly, bug bombs can be downright dangerous. Each year, people ignite fires and explosions by misusing insect foggers. Bug bomb products can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments, which in the young or elderly can be fatal. If you are planning to use a bug bomb in your home, do it safely. Read and follow these directions to keep your family and property safe.

1. Read and follow all directions and precautions on the product label.
When it comes to pesticides, the label is the law. Just as the pesticide manufacturers are required to include certain information on their product labels, you are required to read it and follow all directions correctly. Understand the risks of the pesticides you are using - read all label sections beginning with Danger, Poison, Warning, or Caution carefully. Follow instructions for use, and calculate how much pesticide you need based on the package directions.

2. Use only the number of bug bombs specified on the product label.
Contrary to popular belief, more is not better in this case. Manufacturers test their bug bomb products to determine the safest and most effective number to use per square foot of living space. If you use more than the specified number of bug bombs, you only increase the healthy and safety risks that come with using them. You won't kill any more bugs.

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3. Cover all food and children's toys prior to using the bug bomb.
Once the bug bomb is used, the contents of your home will be covered with a chemical residue. Do not eat any food items that were not covered. Young children tend to put toys in their mouths, so it's best to seal toys inside garbage bags, or put them in toy boxes or drawers where they won't be exposed to the pesticides. You might also want to cover sofas, chairs, and other upholstered furniture that can't be wiped down.

4. If you live in a multiple unit dwelling, inform your neighbors that you will be using bug bombs in your unit.
Condos and apartment buildings usually share common ventilation systems, or have cracks and crevices between units. Make sure to let your neighbors know when you are using any airborne pesticide product, and ask them to turn off any ignition sources (stove and dryer pilots, for example) in their units. Your neighbors may prefer to cover their adjacent duct work, too.

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5. Turn off all ignition sources, and unplug appliances that may cycle on and off, causing a spark.
You would be amazed by how many people forget this important step. The aerosol propellants used in bug bomb products are highly flammable. A gas flame or ill-timed spark from an appliance can easily ignite the propellant. Always turn off all pilot lights, and take the extra precaution of unplugging refrigerators and air conditioners. And just to be extra safe, place the bug bombs a minimum of 6 feet from any potential source of a spark.

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6. Once you activate the bug bomb, vacate the premises immediately.
In a recent CDC study on bug bomb safety, a full 35% of reported health issues occurred because the bug bomb user failed to leave the area after activating the fogger. Why in the world would you want to stay in a room being filled with airborne chemical pesticides? Before you activate the product, plan your escape. Silly as this may sound, a good number of the reported incidents occurred because the person was "unable to vacate prior to discharge" of the bug bomb.

7. Keep all people and pets out of the area being treated for the time prescribed on the product label.
For most bug bomb products, you will need to vacate the premises for several hours during and after its use. Do not, under any circumstances, return to the property early. You risk serious health issues, including respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments, if you occupy the home prematurely. Go to the movies, have some dinner, take a walk in the park, but don't reenter until it is safe, according to the product label.

8. Ventilate the area well before reentering.
Again, follow the label directions. After the prescribed amount of time to allow the product to work, open as many windows as you can. Leave them open for a minimum of one hour before you allow anyone to reenter the home.

9. Once you return to your home, wipe down any surfaces where food is prepared, or that pets or people may touch with their mouths.
Clean all counters and other surfaces where you prepare food thoroughly. If you left pet dishes out and uncovered, wash them. Do you have infants or toddlers who spend time on your floors? Mop them. If you left your toothbrushes out, replace them with new ones.

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10. Store unused bug bomb products safely, out of children's reach.
Why take chances? Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of airborne chemicals, and you shouldn't risk an accidental discharge of pesticides by a curious child. Like all hazardous chemicals, bug bombs should be stored in childproof cabinet or other inaccessible, locked location.

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