If you’re living in one of the drought and fire ravaged areas of the US, the last thing you’re worrying about right now is mosquitos. But for those those of us in the Midwest – the abuncance of rain we’ve had is already producing an abundance of mosquitos. This week is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week. The purpose is to make us all mindful of the significance of mosquitos in our lives and the importance of mosquito control workers throughout the US and the world. Those irritating little insects aren’t just annoying, they can be downright dangerous! Most people know that mosquitos transmit diseases like malaria, West Nile Virus, and many forms of encephalitis, but there are also credible sources like the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation who believe mosquitos can also transmit Lyme Disease. Since I have had both chronic and acute Lyme disease, I’d like to see more research done on this topic. Check out our next blog as we dig deeper into the Lyme controversy and the newest disease spread by ticks.
For those of us who take a more natural approach to our health and work hard to stay well, how are we supposed to protect ourselves from these pervasive pests?
About the time Rachel Carson was launching her book, Silent Spring, I was a youngster having fun running behind the mosquito foggers of our local city park. (Yeah, I know, not too bright!) Little did I know of the dangers lurking in the toxic chemicals we ran through. It could be one explaination of why three of my sisters wound up with cancer! Back then, no one gave much thought to the little trucks driving around the local parks and public swimming pools, spewing forth their toxic cocktail of bug killers. And sadly, no one ever bothered to tell us to avoid the area after a spraying. After all, they wouldn’t be spraying it in a park where children play if it wasn’t safe, would they? I’d like to know the cancer rates of the mosquito control workers back then, and frankly, I don’t think I’d be very confident in the chemicals the mosquito control workers are using today, either.
TOXIC CHEMICALS RULE IN PEST CONTROL!
For decades, the most popular active ingredient in insect repellents contain the product DEET. Like many other toxic chemicals used in homes every day (like fluoride), DEET was a product originally developed for industrial use and often during wartime. It was used in the jungles during World War II and also in Vietnam. It can be applied directly to the skin and clothing, and is sold in varying formulas containing less than 10% DEET to more than 35%. The amount of DEET in a product has more to do with the length of time it will be effective, as opposed to it’s ability to repel insects. Higher concentrations of DEET will last longer. If you use a product with a lower amount, you’ll need to reapply it more often. In addition to DEET, there is another commonly used insecticide called Permethrin. Besides it’s use in insect repellents (most effective as a tick repellent) you’ll see in the factsheets from Pesticide.org, it’s also sprayed on cotton, wheat, alfalfa, and corn fields, and over 100 million applications are made annually in and around US homes. (Doesn’t that make you feel safe from those nasty bugs?!)
THERE ARE SAFE AND EFFECTIVE INSECT REPELLENTS
But do you really want to put something toxic on yourself or your children? After reading the fact sheets on them, you probably won’t want to! This is a real dilemma for me as a Lyme disease “survivor.” Lyme disease can be a very debilitating illness (even fatal) and I have to weigh the risk of getting re-infected with Lyme against the risk of short term exposure to a toxic chemical. Quite honestly, I’m often tempted to go with the toxic chemical to protect myself! But that’s just me…
For those of you who know you don’t want to use something toxic – then essential oils are a great alternative. Natural Healthy Concepts has a good variety of essential oils from NOW products and Aroma Land. Here is a recipe for an herbal insect repellent I found searching in Mothering.com. Lavendar and eucalyptus oils are popular for putting the swat to the bugs! Protecting yourself from insects shouldn’t need to be so complicated, but the key is to do your research and choose what you think is best for you and your family. If you have a natural approach to biting back at the bugs, please share! We hope we can help you find the right product or essential oils to do the job and get those little critters to “bug-off!”
Oh yes, one last tip for any of you who like to fish….from Tom Greier of LymeNet Europe, Not only does DEET repel mosquitos, it also repels FISH! You don’t want to get anyinsect repellent containing DEET to get in your tackle box or on any of your lures. Just a few parts per million will send the fish swimming….away from you!
- How can Lyme disease be prevented and controlled? (eurekalert.org)