The Buzz about Mosquitoes

Anyone who watches television has seen the advertisers of bug repellents capitalizing on the fear surrounding West Nile virus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), West Nile virus, the virus carried and spread by mosquitoes, can cause fatal inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or the membranes covering the brain or spinal cord (meningitis) in more than 100 bird species, and nine mammals, including humans, horses and gorillas. American researchers reported the first polio-like paralysis stemming from West Nile virus. In the October 2002 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers with the CDC said: for every five people infected with West Nile, one has mild illness usually lasting three to six days with meningitis or encephalitis developing in about one in 50 people infected with West Nile­more commonly in those over age 50. The researchers suggest severe muscle weakness is a common symptom that may offer doctors a diagnostic clue. Sixteen deaths in Canada and 284 deaths in the United States have been attributed to West Nile virus.

Massive pesticide campaigns have been implemented including killing the mosquito larvae before they have a chance to hatch, aerial spraying to reduce total overall numbers of mosquitoes and educational programs to convince us to use mosquito repellents. I have grave concerns about the use of carcinogenic pesticides, especially large-scale pesticide use and the use of pesticides on our skin. The Canadian government recently lifted the ban on the use of the mosquito repellent containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) for toddlers and children under two. So now it is recommended that we spray this very toxic pesticide on our babies even though no new research has shown it to be any less toxic than it has always been. Some researchers are screaming that labels on these products must be explicit like DEET-containing products sold in South Africa which read "Repeated excessive applications on children should be avoided, as there have been rare reports of encephalopathy in children." Although the new guidelines now allow for application on toddlers the rules for those aged two to 12 have been limited to a reduced percentage of DEET to 10 percent and it can only be applied no more than 3 times a day. Previously the percentage of DEET allowed was 30 percent. DEET containing repellents sold in Canada are not supposed to exceed 30 percent solutions and should be used sparingly. In the U.S. 68 percent of products registered contained 30 percent or less concentrations of DEET but some DEET products contain up to 100 percent DEET. DEET is a neurological toxin, skin irritant and all round dangerous chemical. It can eat through your plastic watch face and should not be inhaled.

Research performed at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada in 1997 compared the effectiveness of the natural bug repellent Buzz Away and three commercially available products known as OFF! Skintastic, Jungle Juice and Natropel. The results indicate that Buzz Away provides the same protection provided by OFF! Skintastic which, in the study contained 4.75% DEET and related toluamides 0.25%. Buzz Away was found to provide greater protection than Jungle Juice or Natropel. The participants did not complain of any adverse effects from Buzz Away either. Buzz Away contains citronella oil, essential oils of cedarwood, eucalyptus, lemon grass and peppermint. My family, but especially my grandson’s, will not be using any DEET-containing bug repellants when a product like Buzz Away can provide a non-toxic alternative. Buzz Away is available in health food stores across North America.

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