Recently my family and I moved to Georgia. Before we moved here pretty much everyone warned us about the BUGS! Some said, “the mosquitoes are so big they will carry you off if you aren’t careful!” Well, let me just say I do NOT like bugs in my house. I’m cool with them being outside, in their own habitat, but they need to stay OUT of mine haha! I started scouring Pinterest for natural ways to repel bugs. Like I said, I don’t want them in my house, but I don’t want to kill them all off either. We need bugs! Why didn’t just buy a can of the commercial bug spray? That is a great question! Here is why.
What is DEET?
DEET, which is arguably the number one chemical used in bug sprays today, was developed by the United States Army for use during World War II following its experience with jungle warfare. Originally DEET was tested as a pesticide on farm fields. The Army began using it in 1946 and it became available for civilian use in 1957. In 1998 the EPA reregistered DEET as being safe to use when used as directed. In 2002, Health Canada conducted a review on DEET and restricted its use on children 12 and under. The article can be found here. It states, among other things, that children 2-12 should only use products up to a 10% concentration. This article talks about a study conducted in 2009 by Vincent Corbel from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in Montpellier, France. He said: “We’ve found that DEET is not simply a behaviour-modifying chemical but also inhibits the activity of a key central nervous system enzyme, acetylcholinesterase, in both insects and mammals”. The study was published in the journal BMC Biology. During the study, scientists experimented with rodents and found that DEET blocked the enzyme cholinesterase. This enzyme is essential for the brain to transmit messages to the muscles. Another article states “Consider this worrisome statistic: each year approximately one-third of all Americans spray and slather on insect repellents containing central nervous system toxin DEET. And this is in spite of the fact that previous studies have warned of DEET’s dangers. For example, earlier research by Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, who has spent 30 years studying the effects of pesticides, found that prolonged exposure to DEET can impair functioning in parts of the brain and could result in problems with muscle coordination, muscle weakness, walking or even memory and cognition. In the new study, Corbel and his colleagues discovered that DEET inhibits the acetylcholinesterase enzyme. This is the exact effect organophosphate and carbamate insecticides have on the body, too. Alarmingly, these insecticides are often combined in products with DEET — and the scientists found that DEET interacts especially well with carbamate insecticides, magnifying their toxicity. “These findings question the safety of DEET, particularly in combination with other chemicals, and they highlight the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the development of safer insect repellents for use in public health,” Corbel stated.” This article talks about many adverse health reactions adults and children have had, but states that there isn’t enough evidence to put the cause solely on DEET.
DEET alternatives have been created, but are they really any safer? The US Department of the Interior has posted this list of alternatives. Bite Blocker has a key ingredient of soybean oil, Picaridin, found in Cutter Advanced and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, found in Repel, Off, and Fight Bite.
What is Picaridin?
The official name for Picaridin is Icaridin. It is also known as KBR 3023 and the INCI name hydroxyethyl isobutyl piperidine carboxylate. Bayer, a German chemical company, developed this compound and dubbed it Bayrepel. In 2005, Bayer had two spin offs, Lanxess AG and its subsidiary Saltigo GmbH. The product was renamed Saltidin in 2008.
The Picaridin fact sheet basically says it is not harmful, but skin irritation can occur. When used on rats and rabbits for 2 years the skin got thicker, irritated, and dark spots developed. According to this article, picaridin is a synthetic molecule that Bayer developed in the 1980’s. It is a piperidine-based compound. Piperidines are structural components of piperine which is the plant extract from the Piper genus, aka Pepper. (By all means, lets not use an actual plant! Lets use a man made chemical! Done with sarcastic rant 😉 ) Products containing this chemical arrived on the US market in 2005.
So what I’m finding is that the same people that say DEET is safe are also saying Picaridin is safe….gives you the warm fuzzies right?!?!
DEET is to be sprayed on clothing, not under and not on broken skin. It also melts plastics. A bottle of cutter I have (but do not use) says not to spray it on clothing because it is flammable. Nothing like roasting marshmallows with this stuff.
There is a lot of information that say these pesticides are harmful and there is a lot of information that says they are safe. Personally, I am not willing to risk possible reactions and health issues with my children and family. ESPECIALLY when there are MUCH safer alternatives THAT WORK!
I realize we all have differences in opinion and in feelings toward chemicals and a green life, etc.. These are my opinions presented with the research I have done/found. I don’t just accept someone’s “word for it” and I don’t expect you to either! I am in no way a doctor or an expert on this stuff, just a woman who demands better for my family. Tomorrow I will be posting my bug spray recipe that I KNOW works GREAT and it’s safe!