Last year, the New York Times printed a piece 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).
At that, I went to my local Rite Aid to see just how many products contain the chemical. I found it in a significant amount of sprays. I also found that the sprays that did not contain DEET still contained a variety of other harmful chemicals.
So what can you use instead? I asked our natural fans of the Raising Natural Kids Facebook page to share what they like best. In addition are a couple of products I like, along with a link to Safe Mama’s review of bug repellants.
(1-3 are for mosquitoes. #’s 4 and 5 are for ticks and
1. My new favorite, an Organic Pest Protection Spray, by Poofy Organics, works amazingly well. Ingredients: Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Peppermint Essential Oil, Organic Lavender Essential Oil, Organic Lemongrass Essential Oil, Organic Grapefruit Essential Oil, Organic Eucalyptus Essential Oil, Organic Geranium Rose Essential Oil, Organic Clove Essential Oil, and Organic Rosemary Essential Oil. – We love it so much we partnered with them as consultants!
2. 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.
3. I also like Don’t Bite Me, (it’s a patch to wear on the skin, not a spray) 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. I can’t say we never get bit with just this on, but it cuts down immensely on them. When bugs aren’t bad we will use just the patch. When we are going somewhere where there are lots of mosquitos, we double this with the spray. NOTE: You must apply the patch 2 hours in advance of going outdoors and it works for 36 hours!
4.Reusable Essential Oil Diffusing Mosquito Repellent Bracelet – I have not used this yet as I was only just introduced to it by a fan. I think that if it works, it’s a great idea (reviews are great)! In the middle of the bracelet, that comes in various colors, there is an essential oil diffusing stone. So, the oils don’t have to be put on the skin, but rather on the bracelet. It comes with an oil blend of oils proven to repel mosquitoes. You can also use your own oils. Rose Geranium oil has been shown to repel tics, so that’s an oil to use as well!
5. For Ticks – Rose Geranium Essential Oil! All you need is a drop behind each ear and a drop on each wrist! Simplers Botanicals sells an organic Rose Geranium oil, no synthetics and no GMO materials in their products. Poofy’s pest spray also contains the rose geranium and is great for repelling ticks as well.
Wendy’s Homemade Concoction
Mix 10 to 15 drops each of olbas oil, eucalyptus oil and oregano oil. Mix that into 1/3 cup coconut oil and 2/3 cup filtered water. Keep in a spray bottle and shake well before use! (This is for older kids and adults as some of these oils are not safe for younger children and babies.)
Facebook Fan Top Picks
1. Candice Brett Linger suggests lemon balm. “It’s natural citronella. I grow it in my garden to keep the bugs at bay, but also boil large bunches of it down for a few hours, then drain the stock to use as a spray, with a few drops of lavender essential oil. This is also great for pets.”
2. Buzz Away and the Mosquito Patch – both are deet free.
3. Apryl Morvant says “coconut oil mixed with zinc makes the perfect sunscreen, coconut oil mixed with tea tree oil makes the perfect mosquito repellent, put them together and you have both!”
4.Badger– This was mentioned by a lot of fans.
5. Caro Belmares de Kennedy I makes her own!! “Two ingredients, cheap, safe, effective. Just got back from hiking in the woods and we had not one single bite. Here’s my recipe:
6. Rasesvari Dasi says that ingesting grapefruit seed extract regularly is a great option, as opposed to putting anything on your skin.
7. Jolly Bee Soap ‘Bug Bee Gone’ organic bar. All natural oils. “It comes in a bar you rub on. I am usually a mosquito magnet and I live in the south with lots of bugs but with this on I’m always safe.”
8. Steven and Bethany Dragoo use a mix of tea tree oil in coconut oil. “I get bitten constantly and when I put this on I get zero bites!”
9. Elizabeth Kling says, “I used to work outdoors everyday; this is the only natural bug spray that actually worked! I love this stuff!! Oh yes it smells really good.” http://bugsoother.com/ (I couldn’t find the ingredients listed anywhere, but you can contact the company to ask).
ON A SIDE NOTE, We had some fans recommend Avon Skin So Soft. However, the admin of Organic Baby University points out that products like Avon Skin So Soft are extremely toxic even though they don’t have DEET. If you check the cosmeticsdatabase.org for safety of that and many of the others… Avon’s Skin So Soft ranks an EIGHT out of 10 (with 10 being the most toxic!!) It contains a long list of toxic chemicals including phthalates which are linked to birth defects in boys, endocrine disruption and more.
Safe Mama’s Reviews
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.
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