Bug foggers, also known as bug bombs, are a form of pesticide used to fumigate an area. Foggers are often used to kill cockroaches, fleas and other insect pests in the home. The EPA warns that bug bombs are ineffective at killing bed bugs. Foggers are available in commercial and consumer formulas, but both types can cause health problems if improperly used. The design of foggers allows them to treat an area that has been cleared of people and pets, without anyone needing to be there to operate the device.
Use in Unoccupied Areas
Foggers should only be used in areas that have been cleared of all people and pets. If foggers are being used in a building with multiple apartments or units, all tenants -- even those not in the unit being treated -- need to be notified of the pesticide application and removed from the premises as the fumes can travel through ventilation systems to other units.
While bug fogger exposure has caused different health issues, most exposed to fogger report some form of respiratory distress. This may include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and coughing. Those with pre-existing respiratory problems including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and reactive airway disease are at much higher risk if exposed to bug foggers. In most cases these issues pass within 24 to 36 hours of exposure.
Headache, Nausea and Other Symptoms
Those who have been inadvertently exposed to bug foggers have also reported headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and cramps. These symptoms, like the respiratory symptoms, usually go away within 24 to 36 hours of exposure.
Possible Risk of Death
No deaths have been directly linked to an exposure to bug foggers. However, the death of a 10 month old infant, following a bug fogger treatment of her home was ruled as suspicious by the Washington State Department of Health -- the death occurred immediately after the pesticide application.
Almost all reports of health problems linked to bug foggers are the result of improper use of the product. Read the instructions on the product carefully. Packages will indicate how soon a building may be reentered after the fogger has been activated. Packages will also indicate how large of an area a bug fogger can treat. Never use more bug fogger than is required for the area you are treating.