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Health Hazards of Insect Repellent — an article on the Smart Living Network
September 11, 2010 at 4:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Health Hazards of Insect Repellent


It's as simple as this: insect repellents are pesticides and pesticides were created to destroy the living organisms humans consider pests. Unfortunately, oftentimes when insect repellents are used, correctly or incorrectly, not just pests are adversely affected. While the purpose of using insect repellent may, at times, be warranted, even the use of natural insect repellents such as herbs can be detrimental to otherwise healthy individuals when over-exposure takes place. To keep that thought front and center, remember this: Every sixteenth call to a poison control center is due to pesticide poisoning.

Insect Repellents and Cancer

Work related 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 testes. In children, exposure to insect repellents also indicates an increased risk of various forms of cancer, including brain tumors and leukemia. In an investigation conducted in California, women who reported using pesticides in the garden during pregnancy, or during lactation, showed a three to nine percent higher risk of leukemia in their offspring. Some health risks associated with insect repellent use include:

  • Developmental toxicity
  • Stillbirths and neonatal deaths
  • Disruptions in the endocrine system
  • Disruptions in the nervous system
  • Mammary tumors

Mosquito Repellent

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 4.5 billion pounds of chemical pesticides are used every year. Of those chemicals, more than 100 are probable or possible human carcinogens. Insect repellents are used on crops, in yards, around and in ponds, and on humans and pets. While seventy-five percent of all insect repellent is used in agricultural areas, mosquito repellent is generally sprayed directly onto bare skin and clothing, which allows the pesticide to be absorbed through the skin and ingestion. This is especially true when insect repellent is sprayed directly on children or pregnant women. Mosquito repellent is also typically sprayed in parks, along beachfronts, at beach resorts, on golf courses, yards and other areas where people congregate. Toxic pesticide illnesses include but are not limited to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Dizziness, respiratory tract infection and irritation
  • Stomach and abdominal upset
  • Seizures and asthma-like symptoms
  • Death

To avoid using bug spray, outsmart the insect:

  1. Stay away from areas where mosquitoes breed, such as stagnant waters.
  2. Remove stagnant water from your property
  3. Stay indoors at dusk and early morning
  4. If you must be outdoors, wear long-sleeved clothing and pants, and tuck the bottoms of the pants into socks
  5. Avoid wearing sweet-smelling lotion and/or cologne
  6. If sitting on the porch or patio in the evening or morning, place an oscillating fan nearby or sit in a breezy area.


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