Huge settlement for family sickened by toxic pesticide on vacation

By VINITA NAIR

 

The parent company of Terminix has agreed to pay a $87 million to a Delaware family that was poisoned by a banned pesticide last year during a Caribbean vacation and may suffer lifelong effects.

The Esmonds’ nightmare started last March, when the family of four was exposed to toxic pesticides in this Virgin Islands villa.

The pesticide was methyl bromide, an odorless chemical that was banned for residential use in 1984. Terminix was fumigating the property just below the Esmonds. They were vacationing at the Sirenusa Villa on the island of St. John.

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Stephen Esmond is still paralyzed, sixteen months after his family’s exposure to methyl bromide.

 CBS NEWS

Sixteen months later, Stephen Esmond is still paralyzed, unable to speak and battling tremors. His wife Theresa, who suffered seizures, has improved and is looking after their two sons who can barely move.

“It’s highly acutely toxic. At very low levels it has chronic effects,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides.

“The bottom line here is that just because EPA slapped a label on a product, and told the pest control industry you shall not use this in residences, doesn’t mean that the law will be followed. We need much more control over how these chemicals are allowed into the environment.”

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The Esmond family was sickened at the Sirenusa Villa on the island of St. John.

 CBS NEWS

Court documents show Terminix “knowingly” used methyl bromide on the St. John property twice.

In March, they admitted to spraying the banned pesticide at a total of 14 locations — including residential villas in St. Croix and St. Thomas.

Under the terms of the $87 million settlement, they will also pay $10 million in criminal fines.

Terminix refused to comment on the story despite our repeated requests. The Department of Justice is also conducting a criminal investigation. A hearing is expected in late August.

 

Former Terminix employee pleads guilty to using pesticides that poisoned family

By Ray Downs

Sept. 17 (UPI) — A former Terminix employee in the U.S. Virgin Islands pleaded guilty to illegally using pesticides at multiple residences, including one where a family of four became gravely ill in 2015, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Jose Rivera, 58, was the manager of a Terminix branch in the U.S. Virgin Islands when he violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act by illegally applying fumigants containing methyl bromide. The chemical can cause various respiratory and nervous system problems and has been banned for indoor use by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1984.

“Based on his training, the defendant knew that he was required to read the pesticide label and follow all instructions when using any pesticide,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “In short, the defendant was instructed that federal law requires applicators to follow the pesticide use instructions on the label. The label on methyl bromide states that its use is restricted to the location and manner on the label, and the label does not authorize application of methyl bromide in a residential unit. Rivera applied methyl bromide, a registered restricted-use pesticide, in a manner inconsistent with the use instructions on the label at the residences named in the counts of conviction.”

Rivera’s use of methyl bromide indoors is believed to have caused the severe illnesses of a family of four who were staying at a resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands in March 2015. Two children in the family were put under medical-induced comas for several weeks and sustained permanent neurological damage, but everyone survived the poisoning.

In March 2016, Terminix agreed to pay a $10 million fine to the Justice Department.

The company also later settled a civil lawsuit with the family that was poisoned and agreed to pay $87 million.

Bedbug complaints reported at Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence; union to file grievance

By Katie Mulvaney
Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The presence of bugs crawling on benches and shoes and biting people is being reported and captured in images in Family Court on the fifth floor of the Garrahy Judicial Complex.

The Journal was contacted by multiple people Thursday who said they were concerned about the appearance of bugs at the courthouse.

Sept. 7 email from Supreme Court Administrator J. Joseph Baxter Jr. to court administrators that was forwarded to the staff acknowledged a reported insect issue at Garrahy. In it, Baxter said that the courts had been in contact with the contracted exterminator, and that the unnamed vendor “has assured us all ongoing/weekly inspections and treatment(s) have shown there is no infestations” and that areas requiring treatment had received the same.

Baxter assured administrators that the situation would continue to be monitored and they they would be kept apprised of any updates.

“We monitor our facilities constantly for the safety and well being of our staff and all the visitors to our courthouses,” he wrote.

Kara Picozzi, a spokeswoman for the courts, said the the judiciary contracts with A&D Professional Pest Elimination, which has been doing weekly treatments.

“There is no pest infestation,” Picozzi said. “Administration is monitoring it.”

An email sent by Family Court Chief Judge Michael Forte at 12:45 p.m. Thursday to staff confirmed “reports and evidence of bedbugs in certain sections of the fifth floor corridor.”

“The issue started around the [state Department of Children, Youth and Families] courtroom area of the hallway …,” he wrote. That area, he said, had been heavily sprayed.

He denied that there were “substantiated” reports of bug sightings on any other floor.

David Slepkow, a lawyer who often works in Family Court, expressed outrage.

“If this has been known, don’t they have an obligation to inform the public?” Slepkow said. He wondered how people would be reimbursed if their homes become contaminated with bedbugs.

“Everybody’s freaking out. I don’t even want to step in my car at this point,” he said. He said he feels like he should take his clothes off before he enters his home.

He lamented, too, that he is scheduled to return to Family Court on Friday, in spite of his concerns, or risk losing his client’s case.

“We as lawyers don’t have a choice,” Slepkow said.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has long been a pest – feeding on blood, causing itchy bites and generally irritating their human hosts. They are considered a public health pest, but do not spread disease.

They appear to prefer to feed on humans, and will readily travel 5 to 50 feet from established hiding places to feed on a host, according to the EPA. Although they are primarily active at night, if hungry they will seek hosts in full daylight. Feeding can take 3 to 12 minutes.

Sticky “Catchmaster” traps could be seen at lunchtime Thursday underneath benches in the hallways of the side of the fifth floor facing Dorrance Street. The traps were dated from Aug. 31 through Sept. 7.

A man who declined to be named because he didn’t want to jeopardize his court appearance said, “It’s not a rumor. I just killed one after it tried to climb up my leg.”

J. Michael Downey, president of Council 94, a federation of union locals in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Thursday that the union is filing a health and safety grievance on behalf of the Family Court clerks and deputy sheriffs it represents. The union is requesting that the judiciary take immediate action to eradicate the issue, he said.

Two members, he said, had refused to work in the building and were told they had to use their own time.

“We’re very concerned about this,” Downey said, adding, “We’ll be monitoring the situation for everyone in the building.”

‘BURNING FEELING ON MY ARM’: Bed bugs infest Philly bus seat

A viral video shows a bed bug infestation aboard a Philadelphia bus. (6ABC/Getty Images)

One would think bed bugs can only be found crawling around in mattresses.

Apparently not.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is investigating after a viral video shot by passenger Crystal Lopez appears to show a bed bug infestation in a seat aboard one of its buses in Philadelphia, Pa.

The video shows the tiny bugs moving about in and around the crack between the cushioned upholstered and metal portions of the seatback. In an interview with news outlet WPVI-TV, Lopez said she had stretched her arm over the seat and felt something funny.

“Right before I was to pull the cord, I feel like this itching, burning feeling on my arm,” Lopez said. “It was in its entirety from my wrist to my armpit.”

Lopez claimed the bug bites triggered an allergic reaction, causing welts on her arm that later became a rash.

The woman said the rash felt like her “whole arm was on fire and itching all at once.”

After sounding the vehicle’s alarm, Lopez said the bus was pulled over and put out of service.

The video – which was shot Sept. 4 – has been viewed more than 469,000 times and shared more than 7,200 times.

According to pest control company Orkin, bed bugs are small, nocturnal insects that feed on warm-blooded animals and humans. They can be typically be found in crevices in furniture and bed baseboards, and often transported via luggage or used furniture.

SEPTA spokesperson Carla Showell-Lee told the Philadelphia Tribunesaid the bus Lopez travelled on was cleaned and fumigated by an exterminator.  Showell-Lee said bug incidents on Philly buses are rare, noting the last time something similar happened was five years prior.

Showell-Lee noted the transit organization’s buses are cleaned daily and fumigated four times a year.

Lopez told the Tribune she nor her family have ridden on a SEPTA bus since the infestation happened.

“I honestly don’t want to ride SEPTA any more after this,” Lopez said. “I’m kind of, like, scarred because I’m scared to even sit down (on a bus).”

 

Pesticides Don’t Solve Bed Bug Problems…Kiltronx Does

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The United States uses over one billion pounds of pesticides a year.

There’s evidence that even small doses of these affect our health.

Every day we’re exposed to hundreds of pesticides and other chemicals.

They’re in our food, air, water, environment and many personal use products.

And because of this, human assessments have found over two-hundred chemicals and 44 pesticides in our bodies.

And there’s plenty of proof showing pesticides are hazardous to our health.

Pregnant women may pass this chemical burden to their unborn children and through breast milk.

And to add insult to injury, adding indoor pesticides creates even greater risks in our households.

Aerosols are especially toxic in closed or small rooms.

If all these chemicals and pesticides are so safe and worked as well as they say on the label, why do they have to be applied so often?

Now Let’s Add Bed Bugs to the Mix

As bed bug populations increase, desperate people do desperate things.

Especially when professional bed bug exterminator cost is out of reach for them.

Most people don’t understand them but want to get rid of bed bugs fast.

They will reach for over the counter chemical products to kill bed bugs.

Because bed bugs can be resistant to theses, it results in increased pesticide misuse.

People saturate beds and couches with cans of pesticides and containers of alcohol.

The corners, floors and perimeters of rooms often have mounds of diatomaceous earth.

Children, seniors and pets are especially vulnerable to these environmental toxins.

Some may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting or dizziness.

This makes them think they have flu.

Many of these acute illnesses associated with these pesticides are never reported.

Many people don’t know about resistance issues.

Or that they are poisoning their environment.

The Kiltronx Solution

Our philosophy for bed bugs includes kill them when you have them, and be proactive in prevention.

Since bed bug infestation treatment options can be puzzling for most, we take the confusion out of it.

You never know when a bed bug can hitchhike a ride home on your clothing or an article.

And if you don’t notice it, it will wind up in your bed sooner or later.

Were all about protecting your family and preventing bed bug infestations.

Surround your box spring and mattress with Live Free Bed Bug Control.

Our sleep safe solution for bed bugs!

Bed bugs don’t have a chance to colonize, and will die within hours without toxic pesticides.

Watch our video on our Live Free Bed Bug Barrier Systems here

We provide what you need for a simple lifestyle change.

This keeps you and your family protected against future infestations.

Since bed bugs can show up anywhere and at any time…

We have a full line of prevention products that make your life worry-free.

You can find them here: http://kiltronx.us/3-products.html

 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946087/

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/

[3] https://toxicsaction.org/issues/pesticides/

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6037a1.htm?s_cid=mm6037a1_e

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_eQYuuTA8c

[6] http://kiltronx.us/3-products.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Join Us And “Say-No-To-Pesticides™️”

 

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Pesticide Risks Are Real.

Pesticides affect you and me.

We are subject to pesticide and other chemical residuals everywhere.

Restaurants, businesses, parks, public gardens, and golf courses all use pesticides.

And most important, our children’s schools use herbicides outside and pesticides inside.

Toxins are everywhere.

Even power plants, and vehicles create fine air polluting particles that affect us.

 

 

Wake-Up Call

We’re living in a sick nation where over 40% of us has some form of diabetes or obesity.

Approximately 84% of all chronic diseases are from environmental toxins.

Long-term exposure to toxins accumulates deep in the tissues and cells of our bodies.

As a result, cellular dysfunction which leads to problems with our immune systems.

How many of us could be battling a toxic issue right now and not know it?

It is possible to co-exist with a reckless industry that endangers public health?

Not for long.

A Step in the Right Direction

At 46 years young, Dewayne Johnson is facing terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He worked as a public-school groundskeeper in California.

Spraying Monsanto’s weed killer glyphosate (Roundup) was one of his responsibilities.

The jury determined that glyphosate caused Mr. Johnson’s cancer.

And the pesticide-manufacturer failed to warn of the health hazards from his exposure.

He won a landmark case against Monsanto for $289 million that will go down in history.

Another Move in The Right Direction

Recently, the EPA was directed to complete its proposed ban on the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos.

Pesticide persistence affects our entire food chain.

The destruction of bio-diversity in our soils is a grave concern.

Without healthy food, we suffer from diseases and die younger than we should.

On Aug. 15, The Environmental Working Group (EWG), found glyphosate in all but five of 29 oat-based foods.

This included Cheerios, America’s babies favorite finger food, which was recently banned in day cares across the nation.

This may take us many years to reverse.

What does all this have to do with bed bugs?

Adding more pesticides to our environment to get rid of bed bugs is plain irresponsible.

Prevention Is the Cure

Before the advent of artificial and toxic everything, we used what was available in and on the earth.

We used natural resources from the ground, water or plants and not man-made chemicals.

Today, almost everything we use is man-made and contains toxins.

Our sensitive environments can’t risk adding any more toxins.

And people are in search for alternatives.

Knowing this, we developed a safe alternative to pesticides.

Doing Our Part

We all have to do our part to reverse toxins in our environments and reduce our toxic load.

Not only for you and me but for, our children, grandchildren and those who come after.

Our concern for this helped us develop products that are safe to use in any environment.

Especially useful in senior care facilities where health is delicate.

Great for Airbnb, Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, Motels, or any facility that hosts guests.

Frequent travelers, or busy homes can sleep a lot easier with our products.

Kiltronx products kill bed bugs, without toxins, while preventing future infestations.

Our company’s mission is critical to ensuring a healthy future for all.

Thank you for helping protect our children, families and our future.

[1] http://www.who.int/topics/pesticides/en/

[2] http://factorgmo.com/en/

[3] http://www.panna.org/pesticide-problem/pesticides-big-picture

[4] https://usrtk.org/pesticides/tests-show-monsanto-weed-killer-in-cheerios-other-popular-foods/

Toxic Pesticides Found At Most Illegal California Pot Farms

SACRAMENTO (AP) – Nine of every 10 illegal marijuana farms raided in California this year contained traces of powerful and potentially lethal pesticides that are poisoning wildlife and could endanger water supplies, researchers and federal authorities said Tuesday.

That’s a jump from chemicals found at about 75 percent of illegal grows discovered on public land last year, and it’s six times as high as in 2012.

Federal and state officials launched a summer-long crackdown driven in part by new concern over the increase in the use of the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran.

Researcher Mourad Gabriel, one of the few researchers studying the ecological impact of illicit grow sites, said the pesticide is so powerful that a quarter-teaspoon can kill a 300-pound (136-kilogram) bear.

He and fellow researchers at the Integral Ecology Research Center in northwestern California found 89 percent of sites this year have been confirmed or are strongly suspected to be contaminated with carbofuran or methamidophos, another powerful banned pesticide.

The crackdown aided by $2.5 million in federal money led to 95 growing sites and the removal of more than 10 tons of fertilizer, pesticides and chemicals.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said federal authorities are concentrating their efforts on hazardous illegal grows on public land instead of targeting California’s new recreational marijuana industry, although marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“This isn’t about the marijuana, it’s about the damage that’s being done,” he said in an interview before a news conference to announce the findings. “What is happening here is illegal under anybody’s law.”

The effort was endorsed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose department leads the nation’s largest marijuana eradication program, and was aided by the California National Guard in an increasingly rare agreement over federal drug policy.

Investigators suspect some illegal grows are now being moved into agricultural areas alongside legitimate marijuana and other crops. For example, they raided two illegal marijuana farms south of Sacramento this summer based on information on a cellphone found at an illegal grow in the Mendocino National Forest last year, Scott said.

“Because of the legalization, our operating theory is that it’s a whole lot easier to go set up a greenhouse in the valley somewhere than it to have to pack all of this stuff into the national forest and do all the manual labor…. The folks that have been growing in the forest to a certain extent have brought it down into the valley,” he said in the interview. “There’s so much confusion around enforcement that it makes it easy to camouflage it.”

The pot is mostly headed out of state, generally to the Midwest and East Coast, and could not pass California’s stringent standards for legal weed because traces of the toxic chemicals are often found in the plants, officials said.

The grows leave what Scott called a path of destruction by clearing trees, diverting water and using deadly and illegal pesticides that kill wildlife and seep into the ground or run off into streams and rivers.

Authorities seized nearly 640,000 plants, more than 25,000 pounds of processed pot, more than 80 firearms, $225,000 in cash and made nearly 80 arrests.

They also hauled out nearly 60 tons of trash, irrigation hose and camping supplies from the remote sites hidden in national forests and on other public land.

Work crews cleaned up 160 toxic sites, but have a waiting list of 830 contaminated sites, some found eight years ago and still awaiting their turn.

Part of the problem is the lethal pesticides pose a danger to cleanup crews, Scott said in the interview.

“If they go in and there’s a certain level of toxicity, they just have to back away and then let time go by before they can safely go in and try to do the reclamation,” he said.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

California mom bitten by ‘kissing bug’ warns others about danger of ‘silent killer’ parasitic disease

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When Lynn Kaufer Hodson was bitten by a triatomine, also known as a “kissing bug,” she couldn’t even feel it. It wasn’t until a large, itchy lump appeared on her neck the next day that she realized some type of pest had sucked her blood.

Hodson had been staying with family in a camper on her ranch in Grass Valley, Calif., in November 2016 while she waited to move into her new home in Penn Valley — a town that was a roughly 30-minute drive away.

At first, Hodson just believed a spider or mosquito had bitten her while she was staying in a fifth wheel camper. But weeks went by, and the bite mark continued to throb and itch.

“It was super itchy for like two or three weeks,” Hodson, 49, recalled to Fox News, though she admitted she initially decided against going to the doctor.

It wasn’t until two months later that Hodson learned — by accident — the type of deadly bug that had actually bitten her.

BLOOD-SUCKING ‘KISSING BUGS’ SPREADING DANGEROUS PARASITIC DISEASE IN US, HEALTH OFFICIALS WARN

A Panstrongylus megistus insect sits on a finger in the Argentine province of Corrientes in this picture taken September 16, 2008. This bug, commonly known as Vinchuca in many rural areas spreads Chagas, a disease that originated in Latin America, is endemic to Argentina and has killed some 50,000 people worldwide. Argentina has sharply reduced poverty since the 2001-2002 crisis, and the economy is in its sixth year of strong growth, but health workers say they do not have the resources for prevention of poverty-related diseases such as Chagas, rabies and yellow fever in the poor northern region of the country. Picture taken September 16.  REUTERS/German Pomar (ARGENTINA) - GM1E4A40F5301

This bug, commonly known as a triatomine, spreads Chagas, a disease that originated in Latin America.  (REUTERS)

In January 2017, Hodson decided to donate blood, as she routinely did once a quarter. Weeks later, the wife and mother received a shocking letter in the mail from the American Red Cross that revealed there were signs she had been infected with the rare parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which triggers a dangerous illness called Chagas disease.

Hodson immediately underwent follow-up testing at the Center of Excellence for Chagas Disease at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, where doctors confirmed she had contracted Chagas.

The 49-year-old had to wait two months, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prioritized high risk patients such as pregnant women and those with AIDS, before she could get any medications to treat the infection.

“There is no urgency, no concern, no anything with this disease right now.”

– Lynn Kaufer Hodson

“They say if you get it treated right away research shows it’s effective,” Hodson said. “What’s right away? I had to wait five months, so how I looked at it was — I have it. It’s either going to affect me or it’s not.”

100 TAPEWORM EGGS FOUND INSIDE BRAIN OF 8-YEAR-OLD WITH SEVERE HEADACHES, SEIZURES: REPORT

At least 8 million people have been infected with Chagas disease in Central and South America and Mexico, according to the CDC‘s most recent report in December 2017. And an estimated 300,000 Americans in the U.S. also have the illness, a recent news release from the American Heart Association shows.

However, Hodson said the disease is called the “silent killer” because many people don’t show any symptoms. Therefore, she estimates the number of those infected to be even higher.

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Lynn Kaufer Hodson, who turns 50 in November, said she sees a cardiologist once a year to monitor her heart activity.  (Lynn Kaufer Hodson)

Kissing bugs spread the infection by biting a human, typically on their face (hence the nickname), and then defecating near the wound. The parasite can then get rubbed into the open wound or get into the body if someone touches their mouth or eyes afterward.

Chagas disease can cause life-threatening heart issues, including heart disease, strokes, arrhythmias and cardiac arrest. About one-third of those infected will develop chronic heart disease, according to the AHA.

“There is no urgency, no concern, no anything with this disease right now. Not many people have it; it’s not a sexy thing. You can’t see it,” Hodson said, explaining that she’s hoping to “put a face” to the disease so others will take it seriously.

“It comes down to politics,” she argued.

Hodson currently sees a cardiologist once a year for an echocardiogram and electrocardiogram. She also wears a Holter monitor for 48 hours after every check-up to monitor her heart activity. That’s all she says she can do at the moment.

“I’m a total Type A control freak, but this is so beyond anyone’s control. You can live your life stressed and worried about it or you can just live your life,” Hodson said. “Life is short. You hope you’re okay and you live your life.”

The Health Risks Of Bedbugs, Beyond Bumps In The Night

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About 40 used bedbug bombs greeted Mike Deutsch when he entered a small home in Hempstead, N.Y., last year.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘Is everyone okay?’” recalled Deutsch, an entomologist with Arrow Exterminating.

Fortunately, no one in the Hempstead house had been sickened by the chemicals enlisted in the family’s do-it-yourself eradication attempt — although new studies warn of the potential subtle or long-term consequences of exposures to bedbug pesticides, including hormone disruptionreproductive difficulties and behavioral problems. Everyone also escaped unscathed from a duplex in Marion, Ohio, that caught fire during a heat treatment for bedbugs in late December.

Research by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention suggests that people are not always so lucky.

A pattern of desperate, dangerous and often futile measures have Deutsch and other bedbug experts warning the public that bedbugs pose more significant problems than just their notorious nocturnal nibbling. While the epidemic fills fewer headlines today than when it resurfaced in the mid-2000s, experts also recognize that the bedeviling pests only seem to be multiplying further. A report released by Penn Medicine on Thursday suggested that infestations in Philadelphia are growing by 70 percent a yearNearly allpest management professionals, according to a nationwide survey published in April, reported servicing a bedbug infestation in the past year.

The issue has also captured the attention of several local and national agencies, which are now drafting and enacting legislation to promote safe bedbug control.

“People become desperate and will do crazy things,” said Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, a community-integrated pest management coordinator at Cornell University. “Overall, the public health effects of bedbugs have been largely overlooked.”

Beyond the toxic chemicals sometimes misused to fight them or the house fires that can result from other efforts, bedbugs are associated with a variety of health concerns. The pests can cause anxiety, depression and lost sleep for those who face an infestation and the social and financial hardships that can come with it, Gangloff-Kaufmann said. She added that sores from bedbug bites may even open up avenues for infections, such as from superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which commonly lives atop human skin. While the general consensus remains that bedbugs can’t transmit disease, some scientists are unconvinced and underscore how relatively little is known about the insect.

People will also put themselves in dangerous situations to avoid the possible presence of bedbugs. As temperatures plummeted across the Midwest late last week, two homeless men reportedly chose to sleep outside rather than go into a Chicago shelter that’s been battling bedbugs.

Kevin Govert, one of the men, told DNAinfo Chicago that he does not want to “get bedbugs again.”

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Bedbugs can lay dormant for several months without needing to feed on humans. (National Pest Management Association)

No building is immune. Infestations over the last couple months were reported in libraries, classrooms, movie theaters, hospitals, jails and fire stations, among other locales across the country.

“Bedbugs are not going to go away,” said Dave Stone, director and principal investigator for the National Pesticide Information Center at Oregon State University.

Rising resistance among bedbugs to the chemical arsenal that once helped keep them at bay is making matters worse. One consequence — and even a potential contributor to the insects’ resistance — is the tendency among some people to use more of the chemicals, and more often, should an initial application fail to eliminate the bugs.

In November 2012, the CDC — using data from the National Pesticide Information Center— issued a formal health advisory “alerting the public to an emerging national concern regarding misuse of pesticides to treat infestations of bed bugs and other insects indoors.”

Between 2006 and 2010, 129 mild and serious health effects, including one death, were reported from bedbug-related pesticide use, according to the centers. Stone said that while he doesn’t have any updated numbers, the trend doesn’t appear to have abated.

“Sadly, pesticide misuse is going to be an issue that we need to be vigilant against all the time,” he said.

Stone relayed reports of people putting the chemicals on their skin or on mattresses contrary to the instructions on the product’s label. Victims of an infestation have been known to spray a pesticide not approved for bedbugs or for indoor use — or even one that is outright banned — further raising the risks of ineffectiveness and toxic exposures.

“The thought of an insect feeding on your blood — it’s psychologically traumatizing,” said Stone. “It really makes people desperate, and they do resort sometimes to things that can harm their health.”

In a study published in November, Canadian researchers found that the urine of nearly every one of 779 children studied showed evidence of recent exposure to pyrethroids, a pesticide commonly used in households and the central ingredient in bedbug control products. They are also the same pesticides to which bedbugs are increasingly resistant.

When researchers compared the children least and most exposed to pyrethroids, they found roughly a doubling in the odds of that child exhibiting behavioral problems, even after controlling for other factors, such as lead exposure and socio-economic status.

“Since the whole bedbug epidemic started a few years ago, I’d been wondering if these chemicals had any kind of an effect,” said Maryse Bouchard, an environmental health expert at the University of Montreal and co-author on the study. “But we know very little about the health effects of pyrethroids. It’s been relatively recent that we’ve used begun to use them on such a large scale.”

Some even newer bedbug pesticides are emerging under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s expedited approval process, which the agency told The Huffington Post is part of its multi-pronged approach to combat the epidemic. Many of the new products combine different pesticides in an effort to outsmart the pyrethroid-resistant critters. More affordable over-the-counter products are still generally pyrethroid-based.

“As long as labels are followed, there should be no concern about health risks,” said Missy Henriksen, a spokeswoman with the National Pest Management Association, referencing all EPA-approved pesticides.

But Ruth Kerzee, executive director of the Midwest Pesticide Action Center in Chicago, argues that even with the EPA’s blessing, the jury remains out on the safety of the new pesticides, whether employed properly or not. Overall, the science on bedbug pesticides, she said, is minimal — and so is the likelihood that a property owner will use a product precisely according to the label.

“We may not know the health effects until decades later,” she said.

Kerzee noted that the burden of bedbugs is particularly heavy on poor people. Without thousands of dollars to pay for safe and effective strategies, such as hiring a professional to organize and heat-treat all of one’s belongings, low-income families are left with few options. Gangloff-Kaufmann’s program does offer a series of illustrated guides in both English and Spanish on affordable measures to prevent and manage bedbugs, such as removing clutter in which bedbugs love to hide and “making your bed an island.”

Moreover, shelters and subsidized housing for low-income families have been forced to close when building managers could not mitigate bedbugs properly.

Cynthia Northington, program director at Chicago’s Franciscan House and Annex, said she and her staff have been working hard to keep their 300-plus beds open (hers was the shelter passed up by the homeless men). Exterminators strip and spray all beds once a week — a practice Kerzee discourages — in addition to the shelter’s other strategies, such as limiting guests to one bag and incrementally replacing mattresses and encasing new ones in bedbug covers. It’s been a costly program, she said, and they’ve been actively seeking donations.

“Right now we’re in containment,” said Northington. “But bedbugs multiply very rapidly, and before you know it, they could infest.”

Bug bombs or foggers can exacerbate an infestation by driving the bugs into different areas of a building, noted Henricksen of the pest control industry group.

Bedbugs are so “cryptic and insidious” that they hide out in everything from TV sets to iPhones, added Deutsch of Arrow Exterminating. And while drops from a pesticide bomb may never even touch their shells, the chemicals could well penetrate human skin.

“People unknowingly put themselves in harm’s way trying to get rid of these blood-sucking pests,” Deutsch said. “This needs to be taken seriously.”

When small bugs cause big problems: This insect’s bite can lead to heart disease

 

By DR. ADITI VYAS

A rare parasitic disease that can lead to heart failure or stroke may be more common in the United States than many medical providers realize, with an estimated 300,000 people affected.

Chagas disease is spread by an insect known as the kissing bug. An estimated 8 million people in Central and South America are infected, but the disease has also been reported in several American states — Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, and Massachusetts.

Most people infected will not develop any signs or symptoms, but about 30 percent of those with the parasite can become chronically ill. The American Heart Association in a new report urges physicians in the U.S. to be aware of the possibility that their patients carry this potentially dangerous infection.

Here is what you need to know about the disease.

What is Chagas disease?

Chagas disease is an infectious disease caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. The parasite spreads to people and animals via the Triatomine bug, an insect that carries the parasite in its feces. It is also known as the kissing bug because it tends to bite humans around the mouth or eyes, usually at night. Parasites enter then make their way in through the bite, rub or scratch.

The disease is most common in Central and South America, but it has also been diagnosed in people in the U.S., Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

In the U.S., the disease has mostly been reported in southern states but also in Massachusetts. Most people in the U.S. with the disease were likely infected before arriving in the country, according to the American Heart Association.

The parasite can hide in the body for decades.

How does Chagas disease spread?

Most cases of Chagas occur following an insect bite. It can also spread from a pregnant woman to her baby, and through blood transfusion, organ transplantation, consumption of uncooked food contaminated with the feces of infected bugs or accidental laboratory exposure, the CDC said.

Chagas does not spread from person to person through normal contact with people or animals.

Experts also say it’s safe for a mother who has Chagas disease to breastfeed, as long as she does not have blood in the breast milk or cracked nipples.

What are the signs, symptoms and long-term health impact of Chagas disease?

Initial symptoms may include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, and rash. There can also be local swelling where the bite happened and the parasite entered the body. These symptoms usually go away in days to weeks. Rarely, young children can develop severe inflammation to the heart muscle or brain in the initial phase.

The chronic phase of the disease can occur in about 30 percent of infected people and involve cardiac complications, including heart rhythm problems, heart muscle malfunction, stroke, cardiac arrest or and even sudden death.

About 70 percent of people do not develop any signs or symptoms, and hence the recent warning asking physicians to be attuned to the disease.

“Chagas disease causes early mortality and substantial disability, which often occurs in the most productive population, young adults, results in a significant economic loss,” said Maria Carmo Pereira Nunes, the doctor and co-chair of the committee that produced the American Heart Association statement in a written comment to ABC News.

What is the treatment?

Chagas disease is treated with anti-trypanosomal medication (nifurtimox or benznidazole), which is only available through CDC.

Who is at risk and how can you minimize risk?

Experts believe that most of about 300,000 people are living with Chagas disease in the U.S. had the infection before arriving in the country.

For people living or traveling in in heavily-affected countries, the World Health Organization recommends avoiding unpasteurized sugar cane juice or acai fruit juice which can be contaminated with insect feces containing the parasite and avoiding houses with unplastered adobe walls or thatch roofs.

Aditi Vyas, M.D. specializes in radiology and occupational and environmental medicine and is a resident in the ABC Medical Unit.