One of the things that I’ve been cringing at lately is the use of insect repellent. Last night was the first night of the year that mosquitos were out in droves (or so says the husband as I had a kiddo to feed). While it’s something that we no longer deal with as a family, having swapped to all natural Bite Blocker years ago, the idea of people using DEET based repellents just sends shivers up my spine, and not just because of the “urban myth” of the dangers involved with it. The Cornell website puts if plain and simple: “Products containing N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide and isomers (Deet) are beneficial as insect repellents, but have also been associated with dermal and neurological reactions in humans .” The emphasis is mine here, but I think that it’s unneeded as anyone could see the glaring issue with it.
Reading through the the CDC’s website on DEET is a disturbing thing to do this early in the morning, but it’s eye opening nonetheless. Here’s a glimpse of some of the studies done (here again I’ve highlighted the important part to draw attention to for those just skimming this post:
“AA study was done involving 143 National Park Service employees at Everglades National Park to determine the effects of DEET on varying use groups. Exposure groups were classified as low (non-users), medium (0.01-0.52 g/day) and high (0.71-69.38g/day) use of DEET. It was found that 36 of the workers (25%) reported health effects that they attributed to DEET. These effects included rashes, skin or mucous membrane irritation, transient numb or burning lips, dizziness, disorientation, and difficulty concentrating. Headache and nausea were also reported. A statistically significant difference was not found between reported effects from high-exposure and medium-exposure workers, although the incidences were significantly higher than in the non-users (McConnell et al. 1987). “
Then there’s the EPA’s list of precautions to take, some of which include:
• 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.
• After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
I don’t know about any of you, but I have yet to meet an outdoorsy person that’s not going to have a cut, wound, or rash as its par the course (or at least it is for me). The warnings of not to get it near the eyes or mouth, or on anything a child could chew on, such as hands, scared me. Many alternatives (there again, Bite Blocker is a wonderful one), is made of FOOD GRADE ingredients. While you wouldn’t want your child drinking the entire bottle, it’s fine if they accidentally lick their hands. You can respray as often as needed, there’s no limit due to the possible side effects of overuse. While it’s a good idea to wash your hands when you come in anyhow, getting soybean, geranium, and castor oil on the furniture is nothing compared to getting DEET all over the place.
Just as with the pesticides that Carson exposed in Silent Spring, I can’t help but think WHY are we using these man-made chemicals that can cause havoc? There are natural solutions to the DEET problem, just as there are to the DDT problem. (What is it with chemicals that begin with Ds?) I can’t even begin to pronounce the chemical name in DEET (N, N -Diethyl- meta -toluamide). What I can pronouce are natural ingredients like soybean oil, geranium oil, castor oil, purified water, coconut oil, glycerin, lecithin, wintergreen oil, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, and benzoic acid. The past couple summers I’ve been on a min-crusade, trying to get people to stop buying DEET based products, offering anyone I come across that needs bug spray to try mine, which I keep in my purse all summer thanks to that lovely mosquito allergy. I’d rather have to respray every hour or so than worry about what they’re going to find out that DEET causes later on.