Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thailand Bed Bugs Death

The tragic case of the death of New Zealander Sarah Carter and other travellers in Chang Mai, Thailand, may be a case of pesticide poisoning according to a United Nations scientist Dr Ron McDowall. Dr McDowall has revealed that traces of the organophosphate chlorpyrifos were found in the hotel in which Sarah was staying at the time she fell ill. It was the same hotel that a British couple, a Canadian and a local tour guide stayed in before their deaths in similar circumstances. According to Dr McDowall the symptoms of the deaths were in line with those of chlorpyifos poisoning.

It is thought the insecticide may have been used for the control of bed bugs and Thai police will be investigating.

Bed Bugs
The use of chlorpyrifos for indoor pest control has been banned in many countries. Because bed bugs are predominantly found in bedrooms and other places where people spend large amounts of time it is important that any insecticide used is particularly safe. Kiwicare NO Bed Bugs spray and fumigator products do not contain organophosphates, instead containing the very safe low toxicity pyrethroids permethrin, cyphenothrin and an insect growth regulator, pyriproxifen; all of which are insecticides approved for bed bug control in bedrooms by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Bed bugs are difficult insect pests to control and there is a danger that pest control operators, under pressure to eliminate the bugs quickly, will be tempted to use more powerful chemicals. This may be particularly the case in the accommodation businesses where room downtime and bad publicity from bed bugs is very costly.

It is almost certainly the case that, if the death of Sarah Carter was caused by chlorpyrifos (aka chlorpyriphos), it was not just due to using the chemical, but the extreme over use of the chemical. I find it difficult to imagine how chlorpyriphos could be used at the strength required to cause illness and death.

I am aware that some 'professional' pest control operators in New Zealand use organophosphates for control of bed bugs.  It would be hoped and expected that any such pest control companies would use these chemicals in a safe manner. But I would advise the use of the much safer NO Bed Bugs spray and fumigator in conjunction with the time and effort to find and treat all the possible bed bug hiding places.


  1. Obviously once you have bed bugs, it is difficult to remove all trace of them. However it is easier to avoid them before hand. A premium memory foam mattress is treated with hygienic spray which prevents the spread of bed bugs.

  2. Hello Mattress Specialist,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Bed bug mattresses are a useful addition to protection from bed bugs but they are not a solution on their own. While the most common place for bed bugs to hide may be the seams of the mattress they will readily hide in the bed frame, under edges of carpets, seams of other furniture, behind bed heads, in picture frames and electrical equipment etc. And protective mattresses do not stop these bed bugs climbing onto the bed and feeding on their hosts.

  3. Useful blog on Bed bug control ...
    Thanks for sharing such information.
    Keep up the good work.
    Keep going.

  4. A short update on this story in the Dominion Post

    Exposure to pesticide 'doesn't fit'

    Earlier this year traces of the pesticide chlorpyrifos were found in samples taken from the hotel room where Sarah Carter and her friends stayed in Chiang Mai by current affairs show 60 Minutes.

    It suggested their exposure could have come from heavy spraying of their hotel room to combat bedbugs.

    Chiang Mai Public Health Office deputy chief Surasing Visaruthrat said at the time that he felt the show's finding carried "little weight".

    Yesterday toxicology expert Michael Beasley of the National Poisons Centre in Dunedin told The Dominion Post he also thought it unlikely that chlorpyrifos was responsible for Ms Carter's death.

    Although it could be absorbed through the skin, a fatal dose would need repeated and high-level exposure.

    "To my mind, the clinical picture doesn't fit with an accidental or indirect exposure to chlorpyrifos."

    The symptoms suffered by Ms Carter did not appear to be in line with classic signs of poisoning from organophosphate insecticides such as chlorpyrifos, he said.

    The signs, which included blurred vision, vomiting, shortness of breath, muscle tremors and, in serious cases, lung problems, would not be missed in any routine medical examination, he said.

    - The Dominion Post



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