Outdoor insect spray used indoors...what now?
September 12, 2008 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Outdoor insect spray used indoors...what now?

I live in an apartment (in the US). Our bathroom window has a hornets nest. The apartment utilities guy/handyman came by today to remove the window so the exterminator could get at the nest. While he was taking the window off, a small swarm of hornets made their way indoors. The handyman asked if i had anything. I didnt. But i remembered an old bottle of flying insect spray someone had left on our back porch.

Given the imminent threat of angry hornets, the spray was used liberally in our bathroom. I had the forethought to remove things like toothbrushes, but not enough forethought to remove the shower curtain, bathmat, towels, robe, etc (i didn't expect to have to spray poison indoors).

Looking at the can of spray now, it's outdoors only (as usual/expected).

The three listed active ingredients are Tetramethrin .10% , Permethrin .25% and Piperonyl Butoxide .5%.

I have two cats.

What now?

Do I need to throw everything that was in there out?

Do I need to be worried about the cats?

In the event that things do need to be discarded or cats taken to the vet am I in any position to ask for money from my landlord?

posted by NormandyJack to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Launder the towels, robes, etc. Use some bleach water to clean the hard surfaces and the shower curtain (unless you can't use bleach on the curtain, of course. Then use your normal bathroom cleaner.)

Keep the cats out of the room for awhile. Open the window and get a fan blowing out to air-out the place.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:52 PM on September 12, 2008

The pesticide you used was just a slightly stronger version of a typical indoor pesticide. You and your pets will be ok, they make flea and tick repellent with a much higher concentration of the same stuff as in your spray. The cleaning advice that Thorzdad gave you will be fine to get rid of it.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:18 PM on September 12, 2008

Response by poster: that low a dose should be ok even for cats, right?...according to multiple sources Permethrin is toxic to them.
posted by NormandyJack at 2:33 PM on September 12, 2008

Thorzdad, what is the purpose of bleach in getting rid of pesticide residue? Bleach is another strong chemical, and there are no organisms that need to be killed here, just residues to be removed.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:35 PM on September 12, 2008

I'd call your vet and ask them what they think, but unless your cats are in the habit of climbing the shower curtain and/or licking the tub, it's probably fine. Shut the door and run the fan for a while, and I would use soap and water to clean the hard surfaces of things in there.
posted by rtha at 2:48 PM on September 12, 2008

A quick browse at what you get when you plug Permethrin and Cats into Google leads me to believe that you probably don't want to hose your cat down with that stuff (which is, essentially what people are doing with the flea treatments). I don't think you have anything to worry about but for your own peace of mind, keep the cats out of the bathroom until you've cleaned things up.

This makes me think you have little to worry about since the concentration in your product is like 1/200th of what seems to be in the dog flea treatment and was not actually sprayed on your cats.

The thing about toxicity is that there are a lot of moving pieces. How is it absorbed? What's the LD50 (at what dose do you stand a 50% chance of dying)? Does the body clear the toxin? Is there a type of chronic damage or is it just an acute effect? A dose of cyanide that is, say 10% of a fatal dose is not as big of a deal as a dose of arsenic that is 10% of its fatal dose because your body clears cyanide and arsenic has a chronic effect. (Not to say that you should screw around with cyanide.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:16 PM on September 12, 2008

Response by poster: From what I'm reading the Piperonyl butoxide is another one of those "moving pieces". From the blurb on wikipedia, it inhibits the enzymes responsible for the detoxification of pesticides.

I'm not really worried about my self (apparently the army treats uniforms with Permethrin) my only concern would be my pets, and i just had no idea how much Permethrin is dangerous and in what manner of contact.

Soap, water and a wash it is then.

Thanks for the replies.
posted by NormandyJack at 3:30 PM on September 12, 2008

NormandyJack - According to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18271821 which is the most reliable source I've found, cats have problems when you apply a dog strength product to them, but those products can be 50% permethrin compared to the .25% in yours. Your cats will be exposed to a dose several orders of magnitude lower than a toxic dose.

needs more cowbell - Cleaning chemicals with a bleach solution is common in labs. The active ingredient in bleach is a strong oxidizer and it dissipates relatively quickly, so it inactivates a wide range of toxins and doesn't leave a residue.
posted by TungstenChef at 6:18 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I vote with overthinking a plate of beans. You don't want to give your cats a concentrated dose of this stuff, but it wasn't sprayed on them, and they won't have much contact with the stuff that it was. Air out the room, certainly, and liberally rinse down the shower curtain and walls (soap and water on the sink is smart, though, as you and your things touch that more), but I wouldn't personally be concerned enough to launder everything even if it might be an additional good idea.

I really wouldn't expect the cats to get sick unless you locked them in the bathroom for some reason. Just keep them out of there for a day or so.
posted by dhartung at 10:37 PM on September 12, 2008

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