Summertime is a time for BBQ’s, picnics, outside games…but it’s also when the bugs come out. We’ve been drilled to be afraid of getting malaria and dengue from mosquitoes. We don’t enjoy being bitten by bugs…but I’m afraid we have something more to fear.
Yep, those handy sprays that keep the bugs off may be more dangerous than the bugs…and here’s why.
Most insect repellents on the market are loaded with toxic chemicals, including DEET, which is so poisonous that even the Environmental Protection Agency says you should wash it off your skin when you return indoors, avoid breathing it in and not spray it directly on your face. But since the skin is the largest organ, making it super absorbent, what good is washing it off going to do if it’s already been sitting on your skin for hours? Plus, hot water opens the pores just allowing more chemicals in.
Some fun facts I found about two of the chemicals in bug spray.
The chemical DEET can melt plastic or fishing line.
A pharmacologist at Duke University discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET may impair cell function in parts of your brain. This was demonstrated in the lab by death and behavioral changes in rats with frequent or prolonged DEET use.
Scientists Vincent Corbel and Bruno Lapied headed a team of researchers from the University of Angersrchers studying the toxicity of DEET. Corbel says: “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.”
Permethrin is another harmful chemical found in many bug sprays. This chemical is a neurotoxin, meaning it can kill brain cells.
Permethrin is also extremely toxic to bees, cats, and all aquatic life. Not only is it hurting the body, it’s also damaging the environment.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has categorized Permethrin as a carcinogenic, capable of causing lung tumors, liver tumors, immune system problems, and chromosomal abnormalities.
If these sprays can melt plastic and kill brain cells, they are probably not something you want to use on your skin. When we use these repellents, the toxic chemicals in them are directly absorbed into our blood through our skin and we may be doing more damage to our body than we ever imagined.
However, many people do not make the connection between chemically based bug spray and pesticides. In the same way you wouldn’t put weed killer on your arm you might think twice about putting bug spray ‘pesticides’ on your skin.
As pesticide use has become a common practice, scientists are now studying the long term side effects these chemicals have on the human body. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 4.5 billion pounds of chemical pesticides are used every year on crops, around the home, around and in ponds, on humans and pets. Studies are now showing that exposure to insect repellents and other pesticides indicates a higher risk of cancers, typically of the blood, brain, lymph system, soft tissues, stomach, prostate and breast. In children, exposure to insect repellents also indicates an increased risk of various forms of cancer, as well as weakening of the immune system.
Intermediate exposure has been linked to Neurotoxicity (nerve system damage) while long term exposure has not only been linked to cancer, but also disruption of the endocrine system. This means that pregnant woman and children should limit or avoid their exposure to pesticides as studies are linking them with birth defects as well as growth and development issues.
It’s hard to believe that something with so many side effects is something sold on the shelves. It’s scary to think about. Once I discovered what was in bug spray I started making my own, with witch hazel and essential oils. Below is the recipe I came up with and it takes five minutes or less to make!
Homemade Bug Spray
10 drops Citronella Essential Oil
10 drops Lemon Essential Oil
10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
Fill the amber bottles about 3/4ths the way, then add essential oils. Put the lid on, shake and enjoy your homemade bug spray!
As you enjoy your Happy Healthy Summer!