I've been researching insect repellents, and thought I'd share what I've found to help others with young children, and yourself, make the best choices. It took me a while to find all of this information...a few of the toxicity reports were difficult to find (I'm not savvy on the technical chemical terms).
The current insect repellent choices on the market:
- DEET (sold as Off! and many more)
- Picaridin (sold as Avon's Skin So Soft Bug Guard and many more)
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (sold as Repel)
Toxicity Category Levels for these products
Category I = very highly or highly toxic
Category II = moderately toxic
Category III = slightly toxic
Category IV = practically non-toxic
1. What are the toxicity levels of each product?
- Toxicity Category III for eye, dermal and oral
- Toxicity Category III for acute oral and acute dermal
- Toxicity Category IV for primary eye and skin irritation
Oil of Eucalyptus:
- Toxicity Category IV for acute oral, dermal and skin irritation
- Toxicity Category I for eye irritation (Toxicity Category II for the end-use product)
2. Which is more effective?
- DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or picaridin (KBR 3023) provide longer-lasting protection than the other products
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (p-menthane-3,8-diol) provides longer lasting protection than other plant-based repellents.
3. What exactly is Oil of Eucalyptus?
Chemical name: p-Menthane-3,8-diol occurs naturally in the lemon eucalyptus plant. The natural oil can be extracted from the eucalyptus leaves and twigs. For commercial use, the active ingredient is chemically synthesized. p-Menthane-3,8-diol is structurally similar to menthol.
I went to Whole Foods and a few other health stores, and the workers there didn't know what I was talking about when I mentioned "oil of lemon eucalyptus". A few of them took me to the essential oil aisle, say "oil of lemon" and "oil of eucalyptus", and said maybe combining them is what I meant? The actual answer (from the CDC): "“Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (e.g. essential oil) has not received similar, validated testing for safety and efficacy, is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent, and is not covered by this CDC recommendation."
What about the discussion for a product that combines sunscreen and DEET?:
"The Agency (EPA) had deferred its decision on the combination DEET/sunscreen products until it has solicited the views of various governmental agencies and other groups. Sunscreen products are intended for frequent, generous use, and DEET products are intended for
spare, infrequent use."
When to use DEET?
"DEET's most significant benefit is its ability to repel potentially disease-carrying insects and ticks. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) receives more than 20,000 reports of Lyme disease (transmitted by deer ticks) and 100 reports of encephalitis (transmitted by mosquitoes) annually. Both of these diseases can cause serious health problems or even death in the case of encephalitis. Where these diseases are endemic, the CDC recommends use of insect repellents when out-of-doors. Studies submitted to EPA indicate that DEET repels ticks for about three to eight hours, depending on the percentage of DEET in the product."
When to use plant-based pesticide?
I will personally choose to use the oil of lemon eucalyptus (avoiding the eyes...sheesh!) when we are outside for less than 2 hours, and see if that helps keep mosquitos at bay.
Updated Information on Insect Repellents, CDC
Insect Repellents, CDC
- CDC (Centers for Disease Control)
- EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
- APA (American Pediatric Association)
Please add any information (with a link to its source) that you find regarding insect repellents. Thanks!
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