Bug Spray Makers Question Their Product's Connection To Overdoses

By Paul Fuhr 03/28/18

The company behind Raid and OFF! has disputed allegations about the reported abuse of its products. 

Image: 
person spraying insecticide in the garden

As Indianapolis health officials struggle with a spike in bug spray-related drug overdoses, a leading manufacturer of aerosol insect-killers argues that there is no connection between their chemicals and the reported overdoses.

While many overdose victims have displayed “zombie-like” characteristics, SC Johnson, the Wisconsin-based company behind products like Raid and OFF!, was quick to distance itself from the overdoses and bizarre behavior, Forbes reported.

“According to our scientific experts, exposure to the active ingredients in these products would not cause the reported effects,” the firm said in a statement. “Global authorities, including the [World Health Organization] and the [Environmental Protection Agency] for many decades have studied these active ingredients and they have not reported ill effects like this.” 

Known on the street as “KD,” “Katie” or “Zombie,” the laced drugs include everything from marijuana to methamphetamine. It’s gained popularity in recent months, too, thanks to the fact that it’s inexpensive (about $20 per bag) and KD gives its users an immediate, 45-minute high that can leave them catatonic and unresponsive.

Experts say that pyrethroids, the main active ingredient in household bug sprays, remain safe in small exposures. Ingesting the chemical in high concentrations, however, can trigger any number of medical problems, such as respiratory failure and brain damage.

Still, many media outlets continue to link the bug spray with KD’s victims—claims that SC Johnson has blasted as “completely inaccurate.” In fact, the company says that if their bug sprays "were intentionally overused, these types of symptoms would not be associated with them, nor would the state last for 45 minutes."

The problem isn’t isolated to Indianapolis, however. The combination of bug spray and drugs made headlines last year when a 35-year-old Tennessee man smoked a drug called “wasp”—an alleged combination of meth and bug spray—and went on a violent rampage.

South Dakota’s KXRB also warned against the dangers of “Hot Shot”: “[Users] take wasp spray and spray it on a screen wire. They hook it up to a battery charger and get it hot, which crystallizes the wasp spray, and then they melt that down and then they shoot it into their veins.”

SC Johnson, however, insists the troubling trend doesn’t implicate its line of products. Medical professionals echo the manufacturer, suggesting the chances are low that bug spray would lead to an overdose.

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.

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