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It’s Time for Mosquito Repellent Lotions: Know This First

With the arrival of summer, mosquitoes become more prevalent, prompting many to seek protection from their bites and the potential health risks they pose. One of the most widely used solutions is mosquito repellent lotions, which are commonly applied to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases. However, these products can come with hidden dangers. Here is the key information associated with using mosquito-repellent lotions, useful particularly in Mediterranean climate areas during the summer season.

Chemical Ingredients

  1. DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide):
    • DEET is one of the most common active ingredients in mosquito repellents. While effective, high concentrations or prolonged use can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and, in rare cases, neurological issues. DEET repels insects by preventing them from landing on your skin or clothes.
  2. Picaridin:
    • Generally considered safer than DEET, picaridin can still cause skin and eye irritation in some individuals.
  3. IR3535 (Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate):
    • Another common ingredient that can cause mild skin irritation.

Skin Reactions

Irritation and Allergies: Some people may develop rashes, redness, itching, or other allergic reactions to the chemicals in mosquito-repellent lotions.
Contact Dermatitis: Extended use or application on broken skin can lead to dermatitis.

Inhalation and Ingestion Risks

Inhalation: Applying repellent lotions in poorly ventilated areas can lead to inhalation of the chemicals, which may cause respiratory issues or irritation.
Accidental Ingestion: If not washed off properly from the hands, there is a risk of accidental ingestion, especially in children, which can lead to toxicity.

Effects on Children

Age Restrictions: Some repellents are not recommended for young children due to their sensitive skin and higher risk of adverse reactions. Always check the age recommendations on the product label.
Higher Absorption: Children’s skin can absorb chemicals more readily, increasing the potential for systemic toxicity.

Environmental Impact

Water Contamination: Washing off repellents can introduce chemicals into waterways, potentially affecting aquatic life.
Non-target Species: Some repellents, such as bees and butterflies, can harm beneficial insects.

Potential Hormonal Effects

Endocrine Disruption: Some studies suggest that certain repellent ingredients might act as endocrine disruptors, potentially affecting hormonal balance and reproductive health. For example, research indicates that DEET and permethrin, commonly found in repellents, can disrupt hormone activity, leading to a variety of health issues.

DEET and the Pregnant Women

Few published studies focus on the effects of DEET on pregnant women or their offspring, especially during the first trimester, when developing fetuses are most vulnerable. Some studies found that DEET molecules can cross the placenta and enter the womb in very small concentrations. However, these studies concluded that babies born to mothers who used DEET were not smaller or sicker and did not suffer from cognitive deficits or any major birth defects compared to babies born to mothers who did not use the chemical.

Is DEET Safe for the Environment?

DEET is broken down by sunlight and other air chemicals and disappears within hours. However, DEET on your skin can end up in aquatic systems when you shower, bathe, or wash your clothing. DEET is degraded by aerobic microorganisms in water and does not stay in the environment for long.

Safer Alternatives and Precautions

If you’d still rather not use mosquito repellent containing DEET, there are other effective repellents to consider:

  1. Picaridin:
    • Picaridin, modeled after a molecule found in pepper plants, has been on the U.S. market since 2005. Products with at least 20% picaridin have worked as well as or better than some DEET-based ones.
  2. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE):
    • OLE is another active ingredient that has done well in tests, especially at concentrations of 30%. It is registered with the EPA as a biopesticide, meaning products containing this ingredient are subject to safety and efficacy testing. OLE is not recommended for children younger than 3.

Kungul’s Recommendations

At Kungul, we prioritize your health and safety. Here are our top recommendations for using mosquito repellents safely:

  1. Use the Right Concentration: Products containing 25-30% DEET typically provide several hours of protection.
  2. Apply Properly: Spray repellent on your hands, then rub it on your face. Avoid spraying near your eyes or mouth.
  3. Follow Age Recommendations: Be cautious when using repellents on young children. Use protective measures like mosquito netting for infants.
  4. Consider Alternatives: If you prefer not to use DEET, try picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus as effective alternatives. You might choose to avoid using DEET products unless you visit places with a high risk of mosquito-borne diseases. There are DIY repellents that can help.

References

  1. American Academy of Dermatology – Mosquito Repellent Safety
  2. CDC – Insect Repellent Use & Safety
  3. EPA – DEET and Other Repellents
  4. 10 Natural Ingredients That Repel Mosquitoes
  5. NIH – Picaridin Safety
  6. CDC – Endocrine Disruptors
  7. Beyond Pesticides – Endocrine Disruptors

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