Bug Repellant... Which one?

Some of us are fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where those pesky insects aren't an issue.

Eventually all of us that travel to areas where biting bugs are an issue, if you who have embarked on your yearly battle with the mosquitoes, this one's for you. If the thought of slathering yourself and your children with poison to avoid bugs scares you it SHOULD! The active ingredient in most "guaranteed" products is DEET. First off I want to say that DEET sprays can melt plastic bags and fishing lines. I hope that makes you wonder what it can do to you. Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia spent 30 years researching the effects of pesticides. He discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET can impair cell function in parts of your brain. Demonstrated in the lab by death and behavioral changes in rats with frequent or prolonged use. 
When these rats had their skin treated with the average human dosage equivalent (40 mg/kg body weight) of DEET, they performed far worse than control rats on physical tests requiring muscle control, strength, and coordination. This is consistent with reports of symptoms after military use of DEET in the Persian Gulf War. Exposure causes neurons to die in several parts of your brain. Including areas that control muscle movement, memory, concentration and learning. Abou-Donia says rats given small doses of DEET for 60 days had a harder time accomplishing even the easiest tasks, things as simple as walking. Heavy exposure to DEET and other insecticides can cause eye and skin irritation, memory loss, headaches, weakness, fatigue, muscle/joint pain, nausea, tremors and shortness of breath. Symptoms can appear months or even years after use. Abou-Donia believes that although short-term exposure to DEET might not be harmful, he warns against ever using any product with more than a 30% concentration. 

To me, even that seems a dangerous and risky amount to use. Abou-Donia says, it gets worse, "We found that the combined exposure to DEET and other chemicals is more dangerous than just DEET alone." "Exposure causes neurons to die in several parts of your brain including areas that control muscle movement, memory, concentration and learning." Abou-Donia says rats given small doses of DEET for 60 days had a harder time accomplishing even the easiest tasks, things as simple as walking. This is what the EPA, (Environmental Protection Agency) says:
DEET is designed for direct application to human skin to repel insects, rather than kill them. After it was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946, DEET was registered for use by the general public in 1957. Approximately 140 products containing DEET are currently registered with EPA by about 39 different companies. After completing a comprehensive re-assessment of DEET, EPA concluded that, as long as consumers follow label directions and take proper precautions, insect repellents containing DEET do not present a health concern. Human exposure is expected to be brief, and long-term exposure is not expected. Based on extensive toxicity testing, the Agency believes that the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population. EPA completed this review and issued its reregistration decision (called a RED) in 1998. 

EPA suggestions on how to use DEET products safely

Consumers can reduce their own risks when using DEET by reading and following products labels. All DEET product labels include the following directions:
  • Read and follow all directions and precautions on this product label.
  • Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
  • Do not allow young children to apply this product.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing.
  • Do not use under clothing.
  • Avoid over-application of this product.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
  • Wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
  • Use of this product may cause skin reactions in rare cases. The following additional statements will appear on the labels of all aerosol and pump spray formulation labels:
  • Do not spray in enclosed areas.
  • To apply to face, spray on hands first and then rub on face. Do not spray directly onto face.
I don't know about you but this DEET doesn't sound safe to me. The insecticides aren't the only problem though. skin care products containing various chemicals can put you at increased risk of chemical contamination with DEET. Products you use on a daily basis, like deodorants, soaps, make-up and sunscreens, when combined with DEET, create greater exposure than to DEET alone. Medications, both prescription and over the counter, can also react with DEET and increase your risk of problems. Long-term and regular use of DEET especially combined with these other chemicals or medications  can cause brain deficiencies in vulnerable groups, particularly children. Children are more susceptible than adults to subtle brain changes caused by chemicals in their environment, because their skin more readily absorbs them. Their still-developing nervous systems are potentially more affected Never, ever, ever use any DEET-containing product on infants, and be very hesitant to use it on anyone who you care about, including yourself.

Other potential hazards can lurk in commercial bug sprays, such as the chemical permethrin. It's part the synthetic pyrethroid family, all of which are neurotoxins. It's effects are known to include tremors, loss of coordination, elevated body temperature, aggressive behavior, and learning disruption. Even at sub-lethal doses it can cause aggressive behavior, disruption of eating habits, and agitation. Lab results suggest that it is more dangerous for children than adults. The Environmental Protection Agency labeled it as a carcinogen because it causes lung tumors in female mice and liver tumors in mice of both sexes. It's also implicated in chromosome abnormalities in human and hamster cells, and hinders immune function. That's not all, it causes environmental damage too. Permethrin is toxic to honeybees and other beneficial insects, fish, crayfish, and shrimp. It causes deformities in tadpoles and reduces the number of oxygen-carrying cells in the blood of birds. Unfortunately it's found in streams and rivers throughout the United States. I'm sure you can agree that using sprays containing permethrin is not only bad for you, but bad for the environment too. Then there's S.D. alcohol, used as an anti-bacterial agent, denatured by toxic solvents such as acetone, turpentine and benzene which make it poisonous in moderate amounts. Ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, impaired perception, stupor, coma and death, and what about those "inert ingredients"? Those of us that are label readers have noticed this before. Product containers tell you that it contains a certain percentage of inert ingredients. Well the two most popular commercial insect repellent brands have unspecified inert ingredient levels of 68% and 77%. Unfortunately, it's impossible to know for sure what "inert"  includes, since companies choose not disclose it on their labels or to the public. Never use an aerosol they contain alcohol and will accelerate the poison absorption through your skin. If you are using a sun screen apply it first then your repellant.

Turns out there's a much better alternative for you and your loved ones. Because it really doesn't have to be a choice of either mosquitoes or poisons. You can be rid of both. If you prefer a non-chemical bug repellent, reviewers say Repel Lemon Eucalyptus is a good choice. In most tests, it's effective against mosquitoes and ticks for six to seven hours. However, it's not equally effective for everyone, and it's supposed to be applied only twice a day. Most reviewers, but not all, like this product's scent and feel. Mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus are not recommended for kids under 3 years of age. Considered safe for children of all ages and for pregnant women, BiteBlocker Organic Xtreme uses only plant-based ingredients As with most natural insect repellents, protection time varies greatly among individuals, anywhere from just 90 minutes up to eight hours, and you're supposed to reapply every three hours you can safely reapply as often as needed. Just do a little homework on the web. There are many GREEN and safe products to choose from. Check your favorite repellant's ingredients before you go slathering that repellant all over you and your family. As you can see the stakes are high. Check this video for easy cheep home recipe. Good Luck...

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