Pesticide overapplication in bed bug treatment injures kidney

by nobugsonme on June 25, 2013 · 2 comments

in bed bug treatment, pesticides

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 bed bug 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).”

The abstract from Babar Bashir, Shree G. Sharma and their co-authors notes that

“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.”

[Emphasis added.]

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.

If you must do your own bed bug treatment, please follow all label instructions, do your research on methods, and seek advice from a professional.


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,

1 Charlie June 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Then there’s this article that appeared yesterday in the Phoenix area. James La Brie, the owner of the Bug and Weed Mart (the article got the name wrong), is encouraging DIY treatments for bed bug infestations. It’s kind of horrifying.

2 nobugsonme June 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Wow, Charlie!

I found the tone pretty shocking:

“Rather than calling a professional to fog your house or apartment, LaBrie believes everyone should first try to get rid of the bed bugs themselves. It not only saves a person anywhere up to 80% the cost of a professional service, but LaBrie feels the end result is much better.”

It doesn’t make any logical sense that someone with zero experience will have a better “end result” than someone with lots of experience. Of course, the person pushing this is the one selling the DIY supplies, so…

I don’t agree with the message here, but others may be interested in the video:

Finally, just to be clear, I do recognize that lots of people have no other choice but to do their own pest control. But let’s acknowledge that it takes a lot of know-how and some skills to treat bed bugs safely and effectively, and while you may be able to learn what’s needed and do a decent job, it isn’t likely in most cases to have a better result than getting a knowledgeable, experienced professional in.

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