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The state of New York has decided to make “bug bombs” unavailable for public store purchase after a federal report revealed that misusing the indoor foggers can cause illness as well as devastating explosions.

Last week, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said that the agency will begin classifying the foggers “restricted-use” when their pesticide registrations come up for periodic review in the next few months.

Under the new law, only certified pesticide applicators will be able to obtain the indoor foggers in New York State.

One can’t help but conjure up images of disgruntled New Yorkers smuggling bug bombs in their cars across the New Jersey border. Don’t do it, guys! They were banned for a good reason.

Last week’s report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cited 466 fogger-based illnesses and/or injuries in eight states, including 123 in New York, between 2001 and 2006. About 80 percent of the illnesses were minor (included coughs, burning eyes, and headaches) and required no medical treatment, but 18 percent were moderate (nausea, vomiting, cramping, shortness of breath) and required medical attention, and 2 percent were severe. 21 people had to be hospitalized for a day or more, and a baby died the night after her apartment was fogged.

While many of the cases were attributable to people not following the directions on foggers and either using too many at a time or not leaving the room after igniting them, some occurred when foggers were set off in apartment buildings and the pesticides were circulated to other residents through the ventilation systems.

Perhaps more shocking, foggers can also cause explosions when their pesticide clouds are ignited by pilot lights in stoves and water heaters. Bug bombs have been blamed for between four and eight apartment explosions in New York City over the past few years. In January, bug bombs blew off the roof of one Texas resident’s house.

Though the CDC recommended instating warning campaigns about bug bomb safety rather than publicly banning their use, New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, praised the DEC for the ban, citing New Yorkers’ health as paramount.

On a tangential note, recent studies have linked pyrethrins, the pesticides that the foggers release, to the development of autism in unborn children.

If you are considering indoor foggers, please be aware of and seriously consider the risks of these pesticides, and follow all written directions exactly.

While you’re at it, be careful about spraying any chemical in your home. The jury is still out on some of the harmful effects of household chemicals, but why take the risk? Avoid using nail polish removers, hair sprays and insecticides in your home. Avoid using "air fresheners" in your car. When you use these products, you are breathing in and absorbing harmful chemicals. It is time for regulatory agencies to begin studying the long term effects of these indoor pollutants on your health, but until they get around to it, play it safe and don’t subject yourself to them.

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