How I Suffered From Synthetic Pyrethroid Skin Parasthesia

cat hospital my little company we use a lot of different products but the growing majority seems to be synthetic pyrethroids. Professional pest control is not alone in this. In fact, if you look under any household sink or on the garage shelf, you’d find synthetic pyrethroids make up the lions share of insecticides used in American households. The list of pyrethroid based products is over 600 and growing all the time. It can be utilized in several different forms as well. Many granules, foggers, concentrates, sprays and aerosols have this man made version of pyrethrins (an “organic” insecticide made mostly from chrysanthemum flowers from Kenya) and for the most part they are considered safer than products in the past (DDT,chlordane & organophosphates in general). But as with ANY pesticide, natural or not, the word “safe” is something that cannot be categorically used since we’ve got that dastardly little word ending, “cide.”

Still, one of the many advantages of synthetic pyrethroids is that it is considered less of a threat to vertebrates because they (vertbrates) have better metabolism, higher body temperatures and different ion channel structures than insects. So while synthetic pyrethroids are quite deadly on a bugs nervous system,,,, on mankind and the like, not so much. Well at least for most vertebrates. Fish and birds can have problems and that list doesn’t include cats either. Apparently cats do not have glucuronidase which serves in hepatic detoxifying metabolism pathways, and just as apparent, that ain’t good. Who knew?

Still, there is one side effect of synthetic pyrethroids that I think affects quite a number of PCO’s and DIYer pest controllers alike. (they’re in the vertebrates category) This condition is called Skin Parasthesia and while not life threatening, it does serve as a good reminder that we’re dealing with substances that don’t always have our best interest in mind, especially if we get careless.

How I Suffered From Pyrethroid Skin Parasthesia

I usually make a chemical run once per month if you don’t count the ‘quick stops’ to pick up items that we suddenly need like a specialty lure or a broken part to a sprayer etc. I try to get things in advance and buy by the case or in bulk where I can so I always have a ready supply. So this means I also do the inventory of our products, stocking shelves, cleaning etc. etc. (so great to be the boss)

Now we use a lot of granules in our pest control treatments. Almost every home or business gets a barrier placed with each regular visit. The granules we use, (synthetic pyrethroids) come from the distributor in 25 pound bags. How we place the granules in our service is we use shakers that hold only a few pounds. So we need to refill quite often. So rather than trying to fill these shakers straight from the bags which is clumsy and wasteful. I decided to label a barrel so I could pour several bags in and just use a scooper. So much easier and far less mess and waste.

The bad part is, this is when I am afflicted with pyrethroid parasthesia. You see to pour the bags I have to sort of bend over the top of the barrel as the contents go in. Although I try to be slow and methodical, a synthetic pyrethroid dust cloud billows out of the barrel & I am exposed. Within minutes I begin to feel the effects & for the next few hours I have a burning reminder that I need to be more careful.

They say that synthetic parasthesia is a paralyzing of sorts (just to the nerves) to a localized area and that this causes tingling and a burning sensation that can last as long as 48 hours. There can be different degrees of severity but it’s generally not thought to be life threatening or cause long term problems. For me, it’s only around my mouth and nose and no where else. The tingling doesn’t hurt per se, but it’s annoying and usually intensifies if I rinse with water. Luckily for me, it only seems to last a few hours.

We Still Need To Think Safety

It’s odd but I never even get an inkling of parasthesia when I apply the granules or use any other synthetic pyrethroid in any form, even if I do get some on some open skin. I’m pretty sure it’s the “dust” that gets me but who knows. Even if it is in smaller doses during the course of the day and I don’t feel it– I am still at risk of exposure. Just because it’s not a dust cloud doesn’t make it safe and besides, if I do 15 houses in a day that’s 15 times i’ve put myself in that situation. Does that equal one barrel episode? I don’t know to be truthful, but I really don’t care to find out using my body or my clients as the test dummy.

I guess sometimes I am actually lulled into a false sense of security and I feel I can actually let my guard down when it comes to safety.

Mama Didn't Raise No Fool

Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool

Cause you know, I don’t feel anything, I don’t spray into the wind, I know how to handle this stuff and hey I do this everyday & look!!!! I’m just fine!!! So maybe I can get away without my gloves, maybe I don’t really need that mask, besides I’m in a hurry and I’ve got 7 more stops to make.

Just being honest & I think it happens to more people than want to admit it. Speaking of HURRY, I’ve gotta head on out to the shop– got some stocking to do!

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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  • Dylan

    I know, unfortunately, the exact feeling your talking about. I’ve never gotten it from granules, but when I use to do more of our mosquito barrier treatments I would get it. It was mostly around exposed skin under my eyes that my resperator and sunglasses didn’t cover. It only last for a few hours , but I did find that the lotion called “yes to carrots” helped alleviate most of the burning. And for the record, I never sprayed myself, but I think some of the lingering chemical would get on my shirt and when I wiped the sweat from my face, I transferred the chemical.

    I like the granules in a barrel idea. We have a problem with puncturing bags either while storing them or hauling them on the trucks. What kind of container do you carry them in on your trucks?

  • I think fingers and hands ‘transfer’ are responsible for a lot of that. I just keep my hand shaker filled up with a few pounds and carry refill as needed..I also have a shaker with Niban (much lighter even when filled) and it’s a decent forearm workout through out the day.

  • xm41907

    I didn’t know that about cats. Thanks for the info. I’ve worked with several PCOs that had such a severe reaction to pyrethroids, that that never used them or carried them.

  • I do ‘sneeze’ from pyrethrin aerosols a bit but the dust from dumping the granule bag is the only thing that gets me like that thank goodness…

  • Jeff

    I seem to get this effect only around my hairline, especially when using bp100 in an actisol crack and crevice job. I’m not the only one, a co worker has taken to wearing a full coverall with a towel over his head(secured by his respirator straps) when using the same treatments because of the irritation. Thinking about taking that approach myself, as seriously nothing takes the burning away, just have to live with it for a few hours. Meanwhile, have another co worker that doesn’t even wear gloves or a respirator with the bp and seems to suffer no ill effects. Go figure.

  • Strange how different areas are affected on different people….I know that when I use CB 80 or 40 I sneeze for 5 or 10 minutes……..I’d hate to have a combination of symptoms…… I’d be running around a home with a full Tyvec suit, mask, head wrapped in a towel, goggles and a box of tissues…. 😉

  • EA Searles

    Less problematic pest controls (which you try to cast aspersions on) are clove oil and eugenol products and boric acid as well….when used appropriately they are safer and quite importantly have not had a problem , so far at least, with bugs becoming resistant to them, as with pyrethrin products!

  • Two problems with clove oil as I see it..#1 no residual so the DIY person has to apply more often which exposes them more…#2 The DIY person and even some pros may tend to increase the mix under the guise of “it’s safe” again, more exposure. (this is especially true of the DIY)…#3 Did I say three things??? Well here’s 3 anyway……many of the natural products burn like hell when applying and it get’s on your skin….. Clove oil and citrus pest products especially…