Monday, August 6, 2012

Homemade Insect Repellent, the DEET Alternative

With incidents of the West Nile virus on the rise it is time to break out the bug spray. A lot of people have been asking me about the homemade insect repellant I made a few months ago.  I made it because I remember cringing as I sprayed DEET on my family last summer while we were on vacation in the woods.  Lyme disease is a horrible thing to get, but there has to be something less toxic out there that repels mosquitoes...  Catnip anyone?
Here are some fun facts about the little bloodsuckers[1]:

    loco mosquito
    (Photo from stock.xchng)
  • Mosquitoes do not feed on blood -- they actually feed on plant nectars. Females use blood to nourish their eggs prior to laying, imbibing about 5 millionths of a liter per "feeding."
  • Mosquitoes are attracted by carbon dioxide, lactic acid and other body chemicals, as well as your body heat, and can sense these from 25-35 meters.
  •  Women, and people drinking beer, have been shown to be more attractive to mosquitoes. So if you're a woman drinking a beer, watch out.
  • Blonds seem to be more attractive to mosquitoes than brunettes.
  • In one study, a full moon increased mosquito activity 500 percent.
  • If you turn on a light at night you will have noticed that it is magnet for bugs. What most people are not aware of is that if you use a newer LED bulb it will NOT attract bugs. This is because most LED bulbs do not emit wavelengths in the UV spectrum like incandescents or fluorescents do. (source)

Steer Clear of Anything Containing DEET!

The most commonly used chemical in commercial insect repellents is DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide). DEET was patented by the U.S. Army in 1946 and is still widely used. Currently, DEET is used in more than 230 different products -- in concentrations of up to an astounding 100 percent.
If a chemical melts plastic or fishing line, it's not wise to apply it to your skin -- and that is exactly what DEET does.
Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia spent 30 years researching the effects of pesticides. He discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET can impair cell function in parts of your brain -- demonstrated in the lab by death and behavioral changes in rats with frequent or prolonged DEET use.
The rats given small doses of DEET for 60 days had a difficult time performing even the easiest tasks, such as walking.

DEET was found to cause:

  • Problems controlling muscle movement, memory, concentration and learning
  • Eye and skin irritation
  • Headaches
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Muscle pain, joint pain, and tremors
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
Making matters worse, DEET is also combined with other chemicals in many products, in combinations found to be more dangerous than DEET alone, according to Abou-Donia. Other things can also react with DEET -- like chemicals in your skin care products, and even your medications.
In addition, there are other potentially harmful chemicals in bug sprays, one of which is permethrin.
Permethrin is a member of the synthetic pyrethroid family, all of which are neurotoxins. The EPA has even deemed this chemical carcinogenic -- it causes lung tumors, liver tumors, immune system problems, and chromosomal abnormalities.
Permethrin is also damaging to the environment, and it is particularly toxic to bees and aquatic life.
It should also be noted that permethrin is highly toxic to cats[2] . Even a few drops can be lethal to your feline pet. It is used as an ingredient in some topical flea products, so when you see "for dogs only" on the label, it likely contains permethrin. (source)

Here are some natural alternatives to DEET and other chemicals sprays...

Fortunately, there are VERY effective repellents on the market, comprised of natural botanical oils and extracts that are every bit as effective as DEET but with none of the potentially harmful effects.

An independent study showed BUG OFF to be more effective than a product containing 100 percent DEET! And it's safe for you, your children, and your pets.
There is also some evidence that consuming garlic can protect you from mosquitoes and ticks.  (source)

For homemade recipes, that are easy to make, Heather at mommypotamus has 3 great ideas that only require purified water and essential oils.

For those great recipes click here.  

What do you like to use to fend off mosquitoes or other insects?

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