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Planning to Use a Bug Bomb? Read this first

As people resort to using so-called “bug bombs” or foggers to kill fleas or bed bugs, not all of them follow the necessary precautions before, during and after setting them off. The Environmental Protection Agency has a web page with a list of safety precautions for fogger use. The information in this post was taken from that page.

Total release foggers, also known as “bug bombs,” are pesticide products containing aerosol propellants that release their contents at once to fumigate an area. These products are often used around the home to kill cockroaches, fleas, and other pests. Because the aerosol propellants in these foggers typically are flammable, improper use may cause a fire or explosion. In addition to this hazard, failure to vacate premises during fogging or reentering without airing out may result in illness.

Pest Prevention First

Foggers and bug bombs should not be used as the only method to attempt to control bed bugs.

The most effective way to reduce or eliminate pest problems and risks posed by pesticides is to first prevent these pests from entering your home. Around the home, such measures include removing sources of food and water (such as leaky pipes) and destroying pest shelters and breeding sites (such as litter and plant debris). For additional information about preventing pests around the home, please review EPA’s Web page on Controlling Pests, and for additional advice on pest issues and pesticide safety see the “Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety” (PDF) (54 pp, 2.4 MB)

Safety Precautions

When nonchemical pesticide prevention measures are not effective to control pests, you may choose to use a chemical pesticide. One type of product is the total release fogger. While these products can be effective under the proper circumstances, they can pose real risks to your home and family if used improperly. Before using a total release fogger in your home or building, please read and follow the safety tips and common-sense precautions below.

  • Do not use more foggers than necessary – Watch Video

Accidents involving total release foggers have occasionally occurred when homeowners release too much fogging material, leading to a high buildup of flammable vapors. Currently available foggers come in several sizes. Read the label carefully to determine the appropriate size for the space you have.

Foggers should not be used in small, enclosed places, such as closets, cabinets, or under counters or tables. Use of a fogger in an enclosed space may cause the product to explode, resulting in injury to people or damage to property.

To calculate the volume of a living area, multiply the height, width, and length of each room, and then add the room volumes together. For example, a 10 foot by 10 foot room with a standard 8 foot ceiling has a volume of 800 cubic feet.

  • Keep foggers away from ignition sources – Watch Video

Accidents are most likely to occur if large amounts of fogger material come into direct contact with an ignition source, such as a flame, pilot light, or spark from an electrical appliance that cycles on and off (e.g., refrigerator or air conditioner). EPA recommends placing the active fogger at least 6 feet or farther from all ignition sources. If you need assistance with extinguishing pilot lights, please contact your local gas utility or management company.

  • Notify family members, neighbors, and anyone else that may enter the premises

In addition to telling everyone that they should not enter the area, be certain to use door tags if they are included with the product or print out your own warning signs (1 pp, 41.50K) if you cannot find tags with the product. This will help reduce the risk of other people walking into the home or room and accidentally exposing themselves to the pesticides released from the device. Remember that the product in the fogger is a toxin and can have adverse effects on people as well as insects.

  • Vacate the treated house, individual apartment unit, or other structure immediately – Watch Video

Breathing spray mist may be harmful. Safe use of these products requires that everyone, including pets, leave the treated space and close the doors after foggers have been released. Stay out until the time indicated on the label has passed, usually two to four hours. Prematurely entering the treated premises may lead to illness.

  • Air out after returning to the treated area

Upon return to the treated area, open the doors and windows to ventilate any remaining fumes. Fans placed in doors and windows can assist in airing out the treated area.

Take Other Common-Sense Precautions

  • Use no more than one fogger per room, since a typical 6 oz. fogger is enough to treat a very large area, up to 25 by 25 feet of unobstructed space.
  • Remove all children, pets, toys, and uncovered food from treated area.
  • Read the label and follow directions carefully.
  • Keep the product away from children, for example, in a locked cabinet or shed.
  • Teach children not to touch pesticide products and other household chemicals.
  • Keep the telephone number of your local poison control center or the toll-free number (1-800-222-1222) for the National Poison Control Hotline handy.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for this amazing summary, Just to emphasize; like you said, most fumigators are extremely inflammable and could cause significant health damage to humans and pets if not used appropriately. For this reason, it is sometimes advisable to contact your local exterminators to do the fumigation of your homes.

    For exterminator services in Utah, click here.

  2. According to an article in the Journal of Economic Entomology, bug bombers do not work against bed bugs, which can hide in cracks in walls: http://www.entsoc.org/press-releases/bug-bomb-foggers-are-no-match-bed-bugs

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