Although there was a lot of information that suggested deet was unsafe, it in fact is safe for use for adults, pregnant women, and kids older than two months. it is not safe for use on newborn due to their developing brains. Mosquitoes are not interested in direct sunlight as they can dehydrate and die. Therefore they will be most active at dusk and dawn when conditions are extra humid.
Most (though not all, I’m sure) consumer products sold in the US are more or less safe when used as directed. Bug spray would not be safe to spray on your salad, or in your eyes, or other inappropriate uses.
I do not see anything in the website provided by laauralulee that helps support her answer. Saying that, I would actually argue the contrary: bug sprays can be harmful. They should not be used on any wounds, or inhaled by the user. Children and pregnant women are most vulnerable to the adverse affects of bug sprays and should use them cautiously. However, it is common knowledge that anything you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream, therefore, just because you put bug spray on the surface of your skin does not mean that you are aren’t absorbing its ingredients. The active ingredient in most bug sprays is DEET (aka N,N-diethyl-meta-toluaramide). The EPA says that the most significant benefit of this chemical, is that it is able to repel potentially disease-carrying insects, including ticks and mosquitos. On top of adverse reactions that have been experienced by people using bug sprays that contain DEET, this chemical is still poisonous. According the NRDC, the EPA’s safety review of DEET is based on research conducted in the 1990s and is most likely inaccurate or incomplete (for instance, it did not adequately explore chronic toxicity levels in humans). More research must be done to understand its long-term health effects. If you do not want to trust putting this ingredient on your skin, or your children’s skin I would suggest using Skin So Soft insect repellent, or Badger insect repellent. I have used both and have had good results every time.
The amount of DEET in bug repellants has been regulated because the chemical has been documented as potentially harmful.
The source of danger in pyrethroids (common insecticidal compound) is that sodium channels are kept open while promotes hyper-excitation of the nervous system due to prolonged sodium current flow. The link below goes into extensive detail about the health risks which the ingredients in conventional bug sprays contain. The article concludes with suggestions for alternative methods of repelling bugs. A noted safe alternative is Neem oil.
I like rigibson’s answer. However, if you are worried about chemicals in bug spray there are all natural and herbal based bug sprays as well as other methods to keep the bugs away. When I was a kid my mom would pin Bounce dryer sheets to our backs to keep the bugs away. Sounds crazy, and I am not sure of the science behind it, but it worked.
Some options for natural/herbal bug repellents are Burt’s Bees all natural bug repellent (made with all essential oils), rosemary and peppermint oil (http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howthingswork/a/aa050503a.htm). Or, if you want to get creative, you can make your own repellent by mixing 1 part essential oil with 10-20 parts carrier oil (such as olive oil or sunflower oil) or alcohol (http://chemistry.about.com/od/healthbeautyprojects/a/naturalinsectrepellent.htm).
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