It's no fun getting eaten by mosquitoes or other biting insects! To avoid the discomfort they cause, many people reach for well known repellent brands like OFF, REPEL, or Cutter.
Unfortunately, chemical insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET and Permethrin come with potential health hazards. Let's take a look at them!
Dangers of DEET and Other Chemical Insect Repellents
DEET(N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide), the active ingredient in many store-bought bug sprays, is used by an estimated 1/3 of the U.S. population each year. Yes, it’s effective for keeping the bugs away. But it’s bad news for our bodies!
DEET is a pesticide. A strong one. It can melt plastic and fishing line.
A pharmacologist at Duke University discovered that prolonged exposure may impair cell function in parts of your brain. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that DEET causes diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats.
Although DEET is approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is a known eye irritant and can cause rashes, soreness, or blistering when applied to the skin.
Additionally, DEET has been linked to neurological problems. According to scientists at the University of Angersrchers, “We’ve found that DEET is not simply a behavior-modifying chemical, but also inhibits the activity of a key central nervous system enzyme, acetycholinesterase, in both insects and mammals.”
DEET also has a negative impact on wildlife and water sources, as it is toxic to birds and aquatic life. This pesticide has been found in approximately 75% of U.S. water sources.
Permethrin is another harmful chemical found in many bug sprays.
This chemical is a neurotoxin, meaning it can kill brain cells (like DEET). Permethrin is also extremely toxic to bees, cats, and all aquatic life.
The EPA has categorized Permethrin as carcinogenic, capable of causing lung tumors, liver tumors, chromosomal abnormalities, and immune system problems.
SAFE BUG SPRAY OPTIONS
If you're ready to ditch the DEET and Permethrin and switch to a toxin-free repellent, here are a few good options. Note that natural bug sprays sometimes take some experimentation before you find one that both works with your body chemistry (some of us are more susceptible to bites than others) AND is effective against the mosquitoes or other insects in your neck of the woods.
LOVE CANDLES? YOU CAN USE THEM TO REPEL BUGS!
My absolute FAVORITE toxin-free candle company recently released a beautiful insect repelling candle
! It's the perfect blend of mint leaf, citronella, and rosemary sage combined for a fresh and sophisticated herbal medley that has added benefit of a natural insect repellent. You can score 10% off using the code HHH10 at checkout!
DIY INSECT REPELLENT
You can easily make your own insect repellents. I previously wrote an article
on how to do this that contains recipes.
Essential oils are the main component in deet-free insect repellant. A 2% dilution is recommended for adults (see recipe below). A 1% dilution is safe for children over age 2.
TIPS FOR DIY SPRAYS
- Be sure to use a glass spray bottle.
- Use 100% pure essential oils. Synthetic or poor quality oils will not repel insects! They are also not good for your body. Please reach out if you have questions about how to choose good quality oils.
- Shake lightly before use.
Want more safe swaps for commonly used products?