- Every year, about one-third of us will rub on five to seven million pounds of repellent in an attempt to fend off hungry mosquitoes.
- Any chemical, including any pesticide, can pose risks to people, pets, or the environment. Understanding pesticide risk will help you take steps to minimize it.
- Overall, the risk of a pesticide depends on two things, exposure (how much are you putting on your body or breathing in) and toxicity (how poisonous is it).
- DEET is a registered pesticide. It is absorbed through the skin and passes into the bloodstream. The biggest concerns about DEET are its potential effects on the brain and central nervous system and, depending on the level of exposure, can potentially lead to motor deficits and learning and memory dysfunction.
- Icaridin (also known as Saltidin or Picaridin) was later introduced as an alternative to DEET. It doesn’t carry the same neurotoxicity concerns as DEET but has not been tested as much over the long term. Certainly a better option than DEET, but maybe not the best.
- Other options to keep mosquitos at bay that aren’t advised include electronic devices (that emit a low-frequency sound, however scientists say these simply don’t work); bug zappers (except that mosquitoes are more drawn to carbon monoxide than UV light, so they don’t have much effect either); and mosquito coils (spiral-shaped coils that contain insecticide and are lit like incense). Unfortunately using one mosquito coil emits the equivalent amount of formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) as 51 cigarettes.
So what are the best solutions?
- If you are going to be outdoors, wear pants, long sleeve shirts, socks and closed toe shoes. If it’s warm out, try light-colored and lightweight fabrics that breath, allowing good airflow to keep you cool but minimizing access to your skin by mosquitos. This way, if you do use a repellent, you don’t have to use very much to cover exposed areas of skin. You can use fine netting over strollers and baby carriers.
- Plants whose essential oils have been reported to have repellent properties include cedar and lemon eucalyptus. You can easily make your own natural mosquito and insect repellent using lemon eucalyptus essential oil mixed with a carrier oil or alcohol (10% essential oil and 90% diluting alcohol or carrier oil such as avocado oil or fractionated coconut oil). Put it in a spray bottle, shake and spray (and keep it out of the sun). It smells nice and works well, but should be re-applied every couple of hours.
All Natural Insect Repellent
To make your own truly heavy duty insect repellent, you can follow this recipe (all ingredients are available on Amazon or in naturopath stores):
- 6 – 8 oz. of aloe vera liquid or witch hazel, or alcohol or fractionated coconut oil (note: if you use coconut oil be careful to not get it onto your clothes, but it does last longer)
- 40 drops of tea tree oil
- 20 drops of geranium oil
- 20 drops of neem oil
- 1 T. vegetable glycerin (optional)
- 20 drops of essential oils such as peppermint or wintergreen
- Put into a spray bottle, shake well and apply.
Enjoy all the beauty, great weather and new life that spring and summer bring and stay safe.