Bugs. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like them, especially when they bite me. There are many bug repellents on the market today, but how do you know which ones are the best and aren’t causing you additional harm? Is there a natural bug repellent alternative?
I was recently introduced to the non-profit company MADE SAFE. MADE SAFE certifies that products are made with safe ingredients™. With a goal of ultimately eliminating the use of toxic chemicals, they want to change the way products are made. They are giving a “road map” to companies so they can make safer products. They are also informing retailers so they can choose less toxic products. In addition, their certification makes it easier for us, as consumers, to find products made without known toxic chemicals.
MADE SAFE has a toxicant database of known harmful chemicals for which they screen products. In addition, they also “examine ingredients for bioaccumulation, persistence, and general and aquatic toxicity”. For more on their certification process, click here.
Bug Repellent: What’s In It?
MADE SAFE recently came out with a report on bug repellent. The report “examines common active ingredients in conventional insect repellent and their impacts on human health and the environment, as well as more natural options.”
So what exactly is in many of the conventional bug repellents you can buy at a local store?
First off, “insect repellents are regulated as pesticides in the United States because their active ingredients are pesticides.” Bug repellents are made up of both active and inert ingredients. The active ingredients of concern that are not permitted in MADE SAFE certified products are:
- DEET: linked to skin irritation, neurotoxicity, and shown to cross the placenta. Shows up in groundwater, surface water, and drinking water.
- Cyfluthrin: linked to neurotoxicity, and harmful to aquatic invertebrates, fish, and honeybees.
- Permethrin: linked to neurotoxicity, and harmful to aquatic invertebrates, fish, and honeybees.
- Pyrethroids: a class of chemicals linked to neurotoxicty; some have been linked to endocrine disruption; some have been classified as possible carcinogens.
Inert ingredients are everything else in the products. They can include things from solvents and preservatives to anti-caking or foaming agents and fragrance. These ingredients are not listed on the product label. Unfortunately, out of the approximately 3,000 chemicals that the EPA has approved as inert ingredients, some have been linked to cancer, depression of the nervous system, and respiratory problems.
Natural Bug Repellent Alternatives
Depending on where you live, or where you are visiting, it’s always best to look for more natural bug repellents with less harmful ingredients. (Please note, if you are in a location where Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent, be sure to keep informed of the advice of organizations such as the CDC and WHO. In these instances, “Made Safe recognizes there is a time and place for the use of bug repellent products that would not pass their screening process.”)
Due to their pharmacological and biological properties, plant-based extracts make for effective, natural bug repellent alternatives. However, it is important to note that just because something is naturally-occurring doesn’t mean that it’s infinitely safe or non-irritating. Some effective plant repellents can also be irritating to your skin, so before using, do a patch test on your skin with a small amount.
Here are 10 natural bug repellent ideas.
Use plant-based alternatives with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Some options are:
- Clove oil
- Lemon eucalyptus
Use mosquito netting. You can put the netting on your porch, over strollers and baby carriers. You can also use netting while camping.
Keep your yard clear of places where mosquitoes like to breed. Mosquitoes like to breed in open water so cover anything that’s not in use, such as buckets, pools, and unused flower pots. Also, make sure your rain gutters are draining properly so water does not build up.
If you don’t want to make your own bug repellent, you can download the MADE SAFE Bug Repellent Report to see which products which they have certified.
Thank you to MADE SAFE for their work on this report!
Hope you enjoy a bug-free summer!