We often warn our readers that do it yourself (DIY) bed bug treatment is not the best option for most people, for a variety of reasons, and suggest people do a lot of reading from trusted sources first, if they decide they really must do their own treatment for bed bugs.
The most important reading, when it comes to pesticides, is ultimately the label on the product you’re about to apply. Applying pesticides in the wrong places or in the wrong quantities can lead to treatment failure and cause health dangers to people and pets.
In at least one recent case, over-applying pyrethroid insecticides has unfortunately led to acute kidney injury. A team of medical researchers reported in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases this month that they have identified “the first reported case of pyrethroid-induced toxic acute tubular necrosis (ATN).”
“A 66-year-old healthy woman receiving no prior nephrotoxic medications presented with extreme weakness, decreased urine output, and acute kidney injury. She had administered multiple applications of a bedbug spray (permethrin) and a fogger (pyrethrin), exceeding the manufacturer’s recommended amounts. She was found to have severe nonoliguric acute kidney injury associated with profound hypokalemia. Kidney biopsy revealed toxic ATN with extensive tubular degenerative changes and cytoplasmic vacuolization. With conservative management, serum creatinine level decreased from 13.0 mg/dL (estimated glomerular filtration rate, 3 mL/min/1.73 m2) to 1.67 mg/dL (estimated glomerular filtration rate, 37 mL/min/1.73 m2) within 6 weeks.”
The abstract also notes that this is is the first reported case of pyrethroid-induced ATN in a human, “although there are reports of ATN with similar tubular vacuolization in rats exposed to this agent.”
(Note that the full article isn’t yet available.)
It’s important to note that pesticides including pyrethroids can be used safely, but you need to know how to use them safely and avoid misapplication or overapplication (as in this case). Even if you’re using a particular product correctly, you need to be aware that adding additional products may constitute an overapplication.
Note also that over-the-counter foggers have been found in research studies to be ineffective in treating bed bugs.
Babar Bashir, Shree G. Sharma, Harold D. Stein, Robert A. Sirota, Vivette D. D’Agati,
Acute Kidney Injury Secondary to Exposure to Insecticides Used for Bedbug (Cimex lectularis) Control, American Journal of Kidney Diseases, Available online 22 June 2013, ISSN 0272-6386, http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.ajkd.2013.04.020.