The New York Times did a piece last week on mosquitoes, and as one of their suggestions for bug repellent, the author recommended products with DEET. Knowing that DEET has actually been linked to causing damage to brain cells, I was surprised. “The insect-repelling chemical DEET actually functions in the same way as deadly nerve gases and dangerous pesticides, by attacking the nervous systems of both insects and mammals”(Meersman). Side effects include rashes, muscle twitching, confusion, slurred speech, seizures and even death. What’s scary is that you don’t have to use it to be exposed – other people who use it eventually shower it off, or jump into the same pool as you, and in both cases contaminate the water you use (Minnesota Department of Health)! I honestly thought that DEET had been banned from being used at all, silly me!
What is interesting to note is that “In 1998, the US EPA made it illegal for any product containing DEET to make any child safety claims. Products with DEET are required to carry instructions that they should not be used at all for children under 6 months. Additional required warnings state that for children 6 months to 2 years, only concentrations of less than 10% DEET should be used, and only once a day”(EHANS).
After reading this, I decided to go to the store to see what people are being duped into buying. I found DEET in almost every bug repellent sold at Rite Aid, including the OFF products. Some products are labeled as natural because they also contain essential oils (much like the Glade products claim), but they still contain nasty chemicals. The one product not containing DEET contains Picaridin, which is not as dangerous as DEET, but is still listed as a toxin.
So What Can You Safely Use on Your Kids?
1. I really like Bug Out by Way Out Wax, as the ingredients are completely natural and safe: water, soy based emulsifier, and pure essential oils of cedarwood, eucalyptus and tea tree. This is a topical spray that smells great and keeps the bugs away when my family uses it.
2. I also like Don’t Bite Me, with only 2 ingredients: Vitamin B1 and aloe. It is a patch that sticks to the skin. I cut it in half for the kids. I find it works great on both myself and my children. NOTE: You must apply the patch 2 hours in advance of going outdoors and it works for 36 hours!
3. A third product that I have not yet tested but has been recommended by my brother in law, who is an avid camper, is an electronic device that you clip to your clothing. I like the idea of this, as it doesn’t require you to apply anything to your skin. BIL (brother in law) claims that when he went fishing with a friend, that he had this on and his friend did not. BIL didn’t get bit once, while his friend was covered in Mozzie bites. They sell these on amazon by a few different makers. They are cheap enough (4-5 dollars) that it can’t hurt to try one!
A Great Resource to Check Out for a Review on a Wide Variety of Bug Repellent: 2012 Bug Repellent Cheat Sheet: http://safemama.com/cheatsheets/bug-repellent/
Also, don’t forget to check out when your town will be spraying for mosquitoes – stay inside with windows closed and no AC on. Unfortunately that’s the best you can do to protect yourself, though some towns have a form you can fill out so they skip your house. Below is a link for a sample form for Suffolk County, New York. I found this by Googling “no-Spray List” and the name of the county.
Suffolk County No Spray List: http://www.co.suffolk.ny.us/upload/publicworks/pdfs/dns%20request%20form%202008.pdf
Additional Info and Resources Used:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: (Look at the case reports of children!) http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/consultations/deet/health-effects.html
Minnesota Department of Health (discusses the findings of DEET in ground water and such) http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/risk/guidance/dwec/deetprelim.html
Meersman, Tom. The Star Tribune. Minneapolis, MN. August 2010. http://www.fr.sott.net/articles/show/213271-Determining-the-Dangers-of-DEET