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Bug Off

Posted Jun 24 2009 12:14pm

It is summer time and that means most of us will venture outside more often. We play more sports, we garden and we simply enjoy outside cooking and eating during this time of the year. That puts us in contact with pests and in particular the dreaded mosquito. I know the first thing to pop in your head is West Nile Virus.  Many people like to use a pesticide or bug spray to ward of the bugs, the vast majority of these contain a chemical called DEET, and that is bad news. Our own EPA advises that it should not be applied to children under 6 and for adults it should only be applied to clothing not to skin, and then to wash the skin immediately upon returning inside.  This sure doesn’t sound like a healthy idea.  Deet has been linked to neurological symptoms, headache, nausea, dizziness, tremors, muscle and joint pain, memory loss, fatigue, shortness of breath, and in rats has been shown to cause diffuse brain cell death.  It is unlikely that something so potent against other living organisms can really be safe for you to spray on your skin. Botanical products have been shown to be effective but much less so than chemicals like DEET.  This simply means that they need to be applied more often and we have to understand that we may get a bug bite or two during a long evening outdoors.  Options include Neem oil, Cinnamon oil, Cintronella, Vanoline, Lemongrass and Peppermint.

Now about that West Nile virus thing.  Our municipalities are spraying dangerous chemicals into our air rather than directly onto any actual bugs with no regard for possible repercussions. Those repercussions include

  • resistance of the mosquitoes to the pesticides
  • inhalation of pesticides by people and animals
  • maybe most importantly the collateral damage to predator species and birds susceptible to the poison

All of this for a virus that has never been properly identified, isolated or really even proven to exist by the same methods that other heath threats are subjected to. Nobody likes to get mosquito bites but are the preventative measures worse than the irritation of the bite?

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