Magazine article Science News

Bug Sprays May Bug You, Too - for a Day

Magazine article Science News

Bug Sprays May Bug You, Too - for a Day

Article excerpt

People whose homes have been sprayed for bugs frequently complain of symptoms that resemble mild insecticide poisoning-headaches, burning eyes, runny noses, nausea, even tightness in the chest. However, such symptoms are less likely to stem from reactions to the pesticide than to the added solvents that make it sprayable, a new study concludes.

These emulsifiers and propellants account for up to 95 percent of sprayed material. Though manufacturers label them inert, this designation refers only to the fact that they are not part of the active pesticide, points out John A.

Bukowski, formerly of New Jersey's Pesticide Control Program in Trenton. In fact, he notes, many of these solvents, which tend to enter the air far more readily than the pesticides do, are quite irritating.

To see whether the solvents might reach concentrations likely to provoke symptoms, Bukowski's office teamed up with New Jersey's Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute in Piscataway to study apartments treated with the insecticide chlorpyrifos.

Exterminators sprayed just the perimeter of two identical, unoccupied apartments, hitting baseboards and crevices along the edges of the floor. In another two, they sprayed a fine mist of the pesticide over the entire floor area, including carpets.

Computer models had indicated that solvent concentrations in such unventilated apartments would peak in 2 to 4 hours, suggesting that the dwellings should be ventilated for 3 to 6 hours. Though the concentrations peaked as predicted at about 22 milligrams per cubic meter of air, they didn't do so until 10 to 12 hours after treatment.

Even after 24 hours, solvents remained elevated in three of the apartments at more than twice their prespray concentrations, the researchers report in the August Environmental Science & Technology. …

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