We’ve heard all sorts of alternative mosquito repellant techniques: stop eating bananas during mosquito season; surround yourself with people who are larger than you are; place electric fans strategically to blow them off course. And now: lemon eucalyptus oil. lemon eucalyptus oil? you say, wouldn’t that be better as a salad dressing?
Here’s Susan Hunt Stevens with the skinny on Switching to DEET-free bug spray:
Last Sunday, I went to a Little League game in a very buggy park. We have to be careful, because our corner of the U.S. is known for Lyme Disease and West Nile. One of our fans, covering herself in bug spray, said, “Susan, I’m sure this stuff is nasty! Will you do something on bug spray?” So we got to work on a new action and just published it today: Switch to natural DEET-free bug spray.
Here’s what we found in our research:
1. DEET, the somewhat-controversial active chemical in most bug sprays, is a registered pesticide. It is considered safe and effective by the EPA and CDC as long as used correctly (following the very LONG list of rules — including not using it under clothing).
However, the Harvard Medical Family Health Guide encourages going DEET-free. Canada prohibits DEET in concentrations greater than 30%, and bans it entirely in cosmetics, including sunscreen. DEET gets a “5″ (moderate concern) from the Environmental Working Group. Scientists are most concerned about nervous system effects, but studies also show links between pregnant women using DEET and birth defects.
2. Here’s the good news: the CDC says that lemon eucalyptus oil is equally effective to DEET. The EPA also found no adverse health effects from lemon eucalyptus oil except if it gets in your eyes (although note it isn’t recommended for use in children under 3). Other natural oils, ranging from geranium oil to citronella, can protect against insects, although these may need to be applied much more often as they wear off quickly.
Be aware that products marketed as “lemon-eucalyptus-based” may still contain DEET.
3. We were able to find several natural alternatives to DEET-based bug sprays, also screening out those containing artificial fragrances or other concerning ingredients. We then filtered for products with good reviews and across a range of prices (and ages!).
4. What now?
If you have gone or want to go DEET-free, commit today or add it your plan.
And test out our new sharing button or tweet or like the action so everyone you know can choose a healthier way to keep away those bugs too!
Have a great, bite-free summer!