DEET works really well. So well, in fact, that many of us excuse its highly toxic properties. We can stop that right now, though; there’s a new epic bug repellent in town – and it’s totally safe.
It goes by the name of lemon eucalyptus oil. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s even more effective at repelling insects than DEET.
This confirmation comes after a number of studies that pitted the essential oil against DEET. One group of researchers reported lemon eucalyptus oil to be 12% more effective at preventing mosquito bites.
It’s all thanks to the active ingredient p-methane-3,8-diol (PMD). The ingredient is like an invisibility cloak; it blocks signals like carbon dioxide and lactic acid that mosquitoes use to find humans.
BeyondPesticides.org puts PMD in the ‘least toxic’ category. If you get it in your eyes, it’ll irritate them but that’s all you’ve got to worry about.
DEET, on the other hand… Well, read on.
The Dangers of DEET
While PMD makes you invisible, DEET corrupts receptors on mosquitoes’ antennae. That should give you a little hint at how toxic it is to living things.
Your skin easily absorbs DEET. Once inside, the chemical makes its way to your gut and central nervous system, where it can cause the following:
- Muscle co-ordination problems
- Memory dysfunction
Children who leave DEET on their skin for extended periods are especially at risk of death and other severe effects. The risk is so high that the U.S. has made it illegal for any DEET product to make claims of child safety.
Seriously, when the U.S. government takes that sort of action against something, you know it’s gotta be bad.
And ‘bad’ it is; just look at the warnings all DEET product labels must carry:
- Don’t apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin
- Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children
- Do not allow young children to apply this product
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water
- Do not use under clothing
- Do not spray in enclosed areas
Remember, with lemon eucalyptus oil all you really need to avoid is getting it into your eyes. Heck, if the oil you buy is food grade go ahead and drink some of it (not before reading this post, ingesting essential oils).