Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida residents: do not use the DE from your pool

by nobugsonme on April 10, 2007 · 32 comments

in bed bugs, diatomaceous earth, florida, misinformation, tools and weapons, usa

Oh dear, yesterday’s news round-up missed the Tampa Bay CBS news website’s article about bed bugs, which kindly directed many Tampa residents here.

Well, I wish I’d seen it yesterday, so I could have warned more of the folks from Tampa. The CBS article isas originally posted, was wrong: do NOT use the diatomaceous earth (DE) designed for pools in your home to fight bed bugs. It’s dangerous. Use food grade freshwater DE instead. See our FAQ on the subject. (CBS 10 has now updated its article to reflect the dangers of pool grade DE.)

We also have FAQs about what to do if you think you have bed bugs. Hint: the first step is not, as the article states, to treat yourself, the second is not to have a PCO apply one aerosol, as the article also states. Bed bugs are serious and you’d do well to have a Pest Control Operator who knows bed bugs come in and treat your home properly from step one. Don’t believe me? Ask people in the forums.

Florida’s been getting a lot of misinformation and lousy bed bug advice from its news media this month. In such a temperate climate, you have to take bed bugs seriously, or they’re going to have a field day this summer.

Heat. humidity plus bed bug bites = misery, trust me, even though I’m just a New Yorker.

Update 3pm EST: As mentioned in the comments below, several of us have attempted to leave comments mentioning the problems with pool grade DE on the Tampa CBS website, but these were subsequently removed. I think journalists who won’t correct their information, or even allow dissent in a space provided for comments, should be ashamed. Read the SF Chronicle article instead, for less biased information.

Update 10pm EST: My comment is up now (having apparently reappeared some time after I wrote the above), and the journalists have, in fact, corrected the article to say that Pool Grade DE should not be used due to health concerns. Had I known, as ALex points out in the comments, that pool grade DE is also less effective against bed bugs, because of the way its processed, I would have stressed that too. Nevertheless, the Tampa Bay article still contains poor advice about the recommended treatment, and what to do first–namely, call a PCO who knows how to kill bed bugs, since they don’t all know. We’re glad they linked to us and hope Florida readers will find more assistance here.

Update 4/11: Unfortunately, the Southwest Florida News-Press article “State Sees Bed Bug Invasion” includes the entire original Tampa Bay 10 article referred to above, including the advice to buy pool grade DE from the pool supply store. There’s no comment box. There’s no telling how many other Florida papers may carry this story, online or off. That’s a lot of misinformation. Interestingly, the side-box on the article announes “More from News-Press.com:” and the subsequent link “Learn about bed bugs” directs readers to Bedbugger.com, without mentioning us by name. (And clearly, what you’re reading right now is not “More From News-Press.com” at all.) Come to think of it, Tampa Bay 10 didn’t name us either. They just said “click here.” What’s with that?

Okay, let me start over:

Welcome, News-Press readers, and please look at our FAQs. Much of what was written in the article you just read was erroneous…

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1 S April 10, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Hey Nobugs,

Would you please leave a comment on the Tampa Bay article’s website? There is a spot for comments at the bottom, there have been 3 left there so far. Just repeat all this information, from this post, with the links.

I was going to do this, but a) I don’t know how to do all the links and b) I didn’t write it, you did.

But I think this article needs some SERIOUS correction of its misinformation.

Thank you!

2 nobugsonme April 10, 2007 at 2:54 pm

Great advice, S.

Actually, you may be surprised to hear, I DID leave a comment. I was very polite and simply corrected readers on the pool grade DE issue and suggested they read our FAQs (since our site was referred to in the article). I did not include any links (which often lead sites to remove comments).

Nevertheless, after it was up for a few minutes, the station removed my comment.

The same thing apparently happened to Hopelessnomo.

So, Tampa, not only does your CBS affiliate mislead you, they also won’t be politely corrected even on an issue like the relative safety of pool grade VS. food grade DE.

Perhaps someone has a link to the pool supply industry? I can’t think why else they would censor us in this way.

Thank goodness for Meredith May’s carefully researched article in SF which reached readers nationwide. I hope Tampa readers will read that instead.

3 willow-the-wisp April 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm

FWDE Fresh Water Diatomacious Earth, I had been told was best. I didn’t use the purist kind of DE–the FWDE, and now my lungs are suffering for this to some degree. I haven’t read the Ttampa article–but did it even mention goggles and respirators? I hope it at least did that!
no pool DE for me … please.

4 Mike Harris April 10, 2007 at 4:19 pm

Sent an e-mail to them. However, your comment is up as of 15:19 CDT 4/10/07, NoBugsOnMe.

5 buggedinbrooklyn April 10, 2007 at 5:01 pm

well, I posted on that news site too.
NBOM, your reply is still up as of 5pm, lets hope it stays up….I’m sure mine will be removed, but oh well.

buggedinbrooklyn

6 Alex April 10, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Will-o-the-wisp: I’m curious why so many on this site are so concerned about pool-filter DE?

It isn’t at all as nasty as many seem to believe. The biggest problem with pool DE is that the heat-treatment partially melts the fossil diatom skeletons, making it an inferior abrasive with which to scratch the insect cuticle and cause death. Thus, it doesn’t kill insects NEARLY as well as untreated, natural DE.

The inhalation/respiratory risk from pool-grade DE is for miners and occupational exposures, not the transient, short term exposures that you would encounter in your home.

This seems to have become gospel on this site and as much as I’ve tried, I cannot find any evidence to support this level of over-concern about pool-filter DE’s supposed “toxicity.”

I’d love to know what has made so many so worried about this.

7 Mike Harris April 10, 2007 at 5:23 pm

Alex, Google “crystalline silica exposure.”

8 James Buggles April 10, 2007 at 8:20 pm

The Tampa TV station site contains two inconsistent statements:

Bed bugs originally evolved with bats living in caves in the Middle Ages

Bed bugs have been found inside mummies and in the fossilized remains of civilizations 3,000 years ago

If the second statement is true, the first statement is wrong. The Middle Ages occurred circa 500-1000 AD. Evolution takes a lot longer than 1,500 or so years. Bedbugs evolved with us, not afterwards.

If you’ve ever dealt with journalists, these errors should not surprise you. Most journalists are generalists so they possess no expertise in any subject — unlike bloggers like NoBugz.

9 buggedinbrooklyn April 10, 2007 at 8:24 pm

Alex,

I googled DE, and just look what I found on the first hit….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatomaceous_earth

“”Safety considerations
The absorbent qualities of diatomite can result in a significant drying of the hands, if handled without gloves. The saltwater (industrial) form contains a highly crystalline form of silica, resulting in sharp edges. The sharpness of this version of the material makes it dangerous to breathe and a dust mask is recommended when working with it.

The type of hazard posed by inhalation depends on the form of the silica. Crystalline silica poses a serious inhalation hazard because it can cause [b]silicosis[/b]. Amorphous silica can cause dusty lungs, but does not carry the same degree of risk as crystalline silica. Food-grade diatomite generally contains very low percentages of crystalline silica. Diatomite produced for pool filters is treated with heat, causing the formerly amorphous silicon dioxide to assume its crystalline form.

In the United States, the crystalline silica content in the dusts is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and there are guidelines for the maximum amounts allowable in the product and in the air near the breathing zone of workers””

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicosis

Silicosis – (also known as Grinder’s disease and Potter’s rot) is a form of occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust, and is marked by inflammation and scarring in forms of nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs.

buggedinbrooklyn

10 Alex April 10, 2007 at 8:45 pm

You should put the inhalation risk into perspective. See my other posts on this recently, where you’ll find links and risk perspective. The issue is occupational risk from constant, years-long exposure to cyrstalline silica, which is very tiny and sharp crystals that pucture cells and causes tissue damage in the lung.

But occupational exposure risk from 40+ years of 9-5 exposure to crystalline silica (in high abundance in some rocks) is far different than the extremely transient exposures at home from using DE in cracks and crevices for pest control, where exposures are of far lower dust densities (usually) and for comparatively miniscule exposure times (minutes-hours during actual application vs. the tens of thousands of hours of lifetime occupational exposure in working mines, etc).

But it’s all a bit silly, as pool-filter DE has been heated, which melts the sharp spines on the fossil diatom skeletons and renders it fairly ineffective as a anti-arthropod agent (the spines and sharp edges — far larger in scale than crystalline silica — scrape and scratch the insect cuticle, leading to dessication and death).

The emphasis should be on the ineffectiveness of pool-filter-grade DE — NOT the very low risk from transient exposure. By all means, wear a dust mask, but the stuff is just NOT the acute, low-exposure risk this site seems to make it out.

(45+ years of daily occupational exposure in DE mines at 0.05mg/cubic meter were estimated by the CDC (2001) to cause an increase in lung cancer of 1.9 cases per 100 workers — not insignificant if you’re a miner. But your typical home exposure will be less than 1/80,000 of that, translating into a purely theoretical (read unlikely) 4 cancer cases per 10 million people exposed in such a way)

11 Alex April 10, 2007 at 8:54 pm

hopelessnomo says some DE has REALLY high crystalline silica content — which might be the source of the confusion. Most DE isn’t all that toxic, even from the inhalation risk, because they are

12 buggedinbrooklyn April 10, 2007 at 9:12 pm

quote “(45+ years of daily occupational exposure in DE mines at 0.05mg/cubic meter were estimated by the CDC (2001) to cause an increase in lung cancer of 1.9 cases per 100 workers – not insignificant if you’re a miner.”

hmmm, that’s about 100% more then amount given for lung cancer for a 1 pack a day smoker…or a person who works in a bar getting second hand smoke.

safe, not safe, who cares if it’s not all “that” bad…what ever “that” means.

when you start putting it in places that you will more then likely inhale it without a mask, then it is unsafe.
putting pool grade DE on your mattress is unsafe.
how unsafe is up for debate, but it is unsafe and not the best method for ridding yourself of bedbugs in/on your bed.

buggedinbrooklyn

13 nobugsonme April 10, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Just added another update to the post:

My comment is up now (having apparently reappeared some time after I wrote the above–when I checked in the early afternoon it posted at once, and then disappeared, at least for a time), and the journalists have, in fact, corrected the article to say that Pool Grade DE should not be used due to health concerns. Had I known, as ALex points out in the comments, that pool grade DE is also less effective against bed bugs, because of the way its processed, I would have stressed that too. Nevertheless, the Tampa Bay article still contains poor advice about the recommended treatment, and what to do first–namely, call a PCO who knows how to kill bed bugs, since they don’t all know. We’re glad they linked to us and hope Florida readers will find more assistance here.

14 nobugsonme April 10, 2007 at 11:27 pm

Oh, and James Buggles–

I especially liked this statement from the article:

“Bed bugs have been found inside mummies and in the fossilized remains of civilizations 3,000 years ago.”

I am intrigued by–and not sure what is meant by: “the fossilized remains of civilizations.”

15 willow-the-wisp April 10, 2007 at 11:55 pm

Oh good I don’t have to answer alex becase I don’t really know for sure. I can only say with some confidence that if the molecule in pool grde de is smaller then it would be more likely to settle deepr in the lung and less likely to be coughed up as you would cough from being exposed to a dust cloud on a lone and dusty highway.
I just posted there too as follows:
I’m thinking your facts and solutions offered are too simplistic, leading one to believe that a good dose of DE will solve your problems overnight. BB’s are evolving and often bite during the daytime; are more apt to cling to clothing–and to switch-off to another person more easily than in the prehistoric day. (Of course I don’t know that as fact–I only know that my home had 100’s of them and I didn’t even know it.) Apparently there was a slow build up of them–and it is not true that the bites are painless–there is often a huge allergic reaction sometimes only after months of exposure–sometimes only in the first few bites )The latter which has been my case.).
I’ve heard that checking with a PCO before yourself-treat may be best. And they say that Fresh Water Diatomatious Earth is supposedly much safer to use on bed Bugs and other pests–for various reasons. And in the case of De–less is more as in more effective on the bugs (if placed strategically and lightly, and; as well– less hazardous on people.
Seniors who usually (naturally) have a diminished lung capacity to begin with should be extra, extra cautions of using DE. And then there are the children whose lungs are not even yet developed. Using DE without great care would be like telling a kid to look up at an eclipse and don’t worry kid–it won’t ruin your eyesight for life. And so to use DE irresponsibly is practically that bad. It can damage our lungs if only a small bit is inhaled. It damaged mine–and I self treated with mostly the more “innocuous” form of DE.
I did not follow the instructions and now my lungs hurt all the time. So … if you have to use DE try and choose the most innocuous type the fresh water type, and–follow the directions Less is more here folks–in effectiveness and health-wise. Check with a PCO first, as using DE might adversely affect the Pest Control Operators efforts (considering the different methods PCO’s are using/experimenting with to battle the ever more tenacious bed bug.)

Guys … I thought Many of the other comments to the editor from florida–were down right denial types of comments. And BIB–your still there!

16 willow-the-wisp April 11, 2007 at 12:02 am

yes … they took out all of the dumb facts and fixed it wiht a warning aboout pool grade DE and thanked (I guess us);)

17 nobugsonme April 11, 2007 at 3:24 am

Another

Update 4/11: Unfortunately, the Southwest Florida News-Press article “State Sees Bed Bug Invasion” includes the entire original Tampa Bay 10 article referred to above, including the advice to buy pool grade DE from the pool supply store. There’s no comment box. There’s no telling how many other Florida papers may carry this story, online or off. That’s a lot of misinformation. Interestingly, the side-box on the article announes “More from News-Press.com:” and the subsequent link “Learn about bed bugs” directs readers to Bedbugger.com, without mentioning us by name. (And clearly, what you’re reading right now is not “More From News-Press.com” at all.)

Okay, let me start over:

Welcome, News-Press readers, and please look at our FAQs. Much of what was written in the article you just read was erroneous…

18 hopelessnomo April 11, 2007 at 11:07 am

I was going to try to come up with more info but realize it’s a bit of an indulgence during my current bedbug trauma.

Let’s keep our eye on the ball: pool-grade DE is useless against bedbugs.

So messing around with it is not a good idea, as you are exposing yourself, children, pets, etc. to a substance that a) will do nothing to solve your problems and b) many of us believe poses serious respiratory and accidental ingestion hazards. These warnings exist so that people don’t experience heartache out of carelessness or desperation. I think we all want to be conservative for the sake of readers surfing in looking for solutions.

Just how harmful pool-grade DE might or might not be is a nice intellectual argument–which under less pressing circumstance I’m a sucker for. But we’re here to provide the best information available to combat bedbugs. Shall we agree on that?

19 willow-the-wisp April 11, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Hello Folks in Florida!

I think it is so irresponsible for Newspapers and Companies or for anyone to advertise that people SIMPLY use POOL GRADE DE to treat bed bugs. There are much better ways of dealing with a bed bug infestation—get hip guys in Florida!

I understand that a lot of papers in Florida, and a lot of people in Florida, lately, are making a sort of a joke out of the whole bed bug explosion in America!

Let me tell you Bed Bugs are no laughing matter WHATSOEVER!

If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and catch them to find this out for yourselves–But I hope it doesn’t come to that, really I do!

Six weeks ago I found hundreds of them in my home: absolutely nothing, funny, there; and those few hundred which is considered a Moderate infestation—was an infestation on the verge of exploding 10 fold–then 100 fold and then 1000 fold!

Just a few hundred of them have already ruined most of what once was a fairly sedate and rather peaceful life! All I’d seen was five of them–they hide under the matress and in the bedding and in your clothing by day.
They make lice look like a pic-nic (PUN INTENDED)

MY POINT! It takes a lot of combined efforts and types of treatments (some quite costly and some quite dangerous, all of them time consuming and very grueling. And all of it is Dirty and RATHER UGLY.)

So if you get them … you’ll stop laughing or taking bed bugs so lightly down in Florida, and I PRAY you’ll first research what you can do to get rid of them besides using POOL GRADE DE to try and self-treat your homes.

I hope each person in Florida who reads this blog will take the time to do some of their own SERIOUS research here—and elsewhere–and then pass that info onto at least 10 others. In about 2 months–1000’s upon 1000’s of Floridians will know better how to deal with the ever more tenacious and blood sucking vampire—

The “harmless little bed-bug.” which, multiplies 10 fold as well!

20 Alex April 13, 2007 at 3:23 pm

hopelessnomo, absolutely. It is a totally academic discussion and there’s no doubt we all agree: Don’t use pool-grade DE! It doesn’t work and presents totally unecessary health risks.

Glad I don’t have bed bugs and I hope I never get them. I was drawn to the website by the SF article (thanks for the link!) and having been involved in DDT policy discussions re malaria in Africa and the brief thought that if bed bugs are laughing off most other control measures save tenting the house ($$$$$) then perhaps Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) of DDT would be a viable approach.

But that’s a whole other ball of wax.

21 hopelessnomo April 13, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Cool. I’m so glad you don’t have bedbugs, and I hope you never get them! But you are lucky that you know about them, I hope you realize. Not knowing about them is the real hazard. All the best.

(DDT is a fantasy. Better to look forward to innovation and enterprise.)

22 Bugalina April 13, 2007 at 8:06 pm

ALEX…You were involved with DDT policy discussions..interesting..are you familiar with Paul Driessen? I have a question..a PCO from the UK mentioned that he is using a chemical that is not legal in the US…he referred to a chemical used here, in the US, as a “single compound”.chemical, that costs more money…can you expound on this at all? I take it to mean that he is using a chemical that is NOT a single compound..but I don’t know what this means..since you have a chemistry background can you clear this up somewhat ??

23 nobugsonme April 13, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Bugalina, I’m interested in Alex’s knowledge too, but out of curiosity, why not contact the UK PCO and ask him directly about the stuff he’s talking about?

24 Bugalina April 14, 2007 at 7:06 am

I did email Jackson…in his post I don’t think he gave the email of the UK PCO….I’ll go back and take a look but I don’t remember seeing it…I do hope Alex replys regardless. Jackson emailed me and told me that he doubted the UK PCO would share any info., about his chemicals, not wanting to give away his trade secrets was the gist….

25 nobugsonme April 14, 2007 at 12:36 pm

I see, although if a chemical is legal in the UK and illegal here, I would think that disclosing its name would not be a trade secret.

26 Bugalina April 14, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Well he may be thinking that even some PCO’s in London read your Blog, I think many people do. I will ask Jackson again if he will give me the PCO’s email. It really perked my curiosity when he referred to Demand as a single compound, and that the stuff he uses is illegal in the States, and not even up for consideration ! I havent heard back from Jackson. I will do my best to get this info..and of course unless we had the name of his company the info he gives cannot really be taken for fact. Anyone online can say they represent a company and give info.,It would be more legitimate if I could put in a phone call to the company and speak directly with them/and or him, if he would give out the name and number.

27 November August 25, 2008 at 1:11 pm

All I can find is pool grade DE. I didn’t even know there was a difference – I put this crap in my house. Every garden store/ nursery I’ve called acted like I was a nut for asking about DE. One garden store person told me to ask a pool store – nice! I told her I was planning to use it as a pesticide. Maybe I should shove a fist-full of this garbage up HER nose. (I think the bug bites are making me into an angry person)
🙁 stupid bugs.

28 nobugsonme August 25, 2008 at 5:42 pm

November,

Yes– pool grade is bad news. You probably want to carefully remove it.

Check out our DE FAQ for more.

29 kristi April 18, 2009 at 5:45 pm

I have 2 indoor cats could this be relivent?

30 lisa ovel April 19, 2009 at 7:27 pm

I found food grade De earth at a feed store for farm animals in my area st. pete florida its been down for 2 days not sure its working.

31 nobugsonme April 20, 2009 at 2:56 pm

lisa ovel,

We’re told DE can take 10 days to kill bed bugs ONCE they make contact with it. They don’t always do so, if it’s used properly (lightly and where you won’t come in contact with it). For this reason, it often isn’t used as a sole treatment option.

You may also find our FAQ on DE helpful:
http://bedbugger.com/2007/03/30/faqde/

Please come to the forums if you would like to discuss this further: http://bedbugger.com/forum/

32 NLP Counsellor April 23, 2009 at 3:59 am

What an excellent blog, I’ve added your feed to my RSS reader. 🙂

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