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Are plant essential oil repellents Safer?

Summer comes, with more and more mosquitoes, there are a variety of mosquito repellent products on the market.
In addition to the mosquito repellent products with artificial substances such as DEET and DEET as the main components, there are also plant essential oil repellent products with lemon, mint, camphor, lemon eucalyptus, citronella, cloves and even cinnamon, geranium and other Chinese medicinal ingredients.

So are vegetable oil repellents safer and more effective, and what should we pay attention to?

Both natural and artificial repellents are effective at repelling mosquitoes.

The principle of mosquito repellent products is that by adding mosquito repellent ingredients, dry disturb the smell or nervous system of mosquitoes, causing mosquitoes to lose the ability to judge the target and cannot continue to bite. Typical repellent ingredients are DEET and DEET.

In addition, the growth environment of natural plants such as citronella and lemon eucalyptus is more mosquitoes, and in the long process of natural selection, these plants have also evolved the ability to “repel mosquitoes”. The aromatic substances in these plants are preferred by most people and can interfere with the mosquito’s sense of smell or nervous system. Therefore, these aromatic substances are refined into high concentration essential oils, which are the main repellent ingredients added to various novel repellent products.

According to research shows that the repellent ingredients are synthetic or natural, the impact on its volatilization time and range is little, volatilization time is mainly related to the boiling point of the liquid, and the volatilization rate can also be controlled by solvents such as ethanol, in terms of effectiveness, plant essential oil repellents and synthetic repellents can play a certain repellent effect.


Are plant essential oil repellents Safer?

Experts pointed out that the current national standards covering mosquito repellent products are GB 24330-2020 “General Technical conditions for the safety of household health insecticidal products” and GB/T 13917.9-2009 “Laboratory efficacy test and evaluation of public health insecticides for pesticide registration Part 9: Repellents”.

These two standards only specify the safety standards and testing methods of mosquito repellents, and do not limit the composition of mosquito repellents. That is to say, the current supervision of plant essential oil mosquito repellent products is limited to whether they are effective and safe, and there is no clear requirement for the specific ingredients used.

In addition, there is an argument on the Internet: families with pregnant women and infants should choose plant essential oil repellents as much as possible, because man-made repellents can cause irritation to pregnant women and infants. So, is that really the case?

According to the official website of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DEET, Ecaridin, DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, methyl nonyl ketone, etc. are registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and mosquito repellents containing the above active ingredients have been proven to be safe and effective, and pregnant and breastfeeding women can also be safe to use. Among them, DEET is the most studied and most widely used ingredient, which is not only suitable for pregnant women and breastfeeding women, but also suitable for infants and toddlers over 2 months of age.

Although the short-term use of mosquito coil for pregnant women has no effect on physical health, long-term heavy use may have an effect. Therefore, for safety reasons, it is not recommended that pregnant women use mosquito coils or electric mosquito coils. The repellent components of electric mosquito repellent liquid are mainly extracts of various insecticides, including pyrethrin, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, etc. Long-term use may have negative effects on human health.

In fact, mosquito repellent products using natural plant essential oils as repellent ingredients are not safer than products using synthetic substances as repellent ingredients, because plant essential oils can also be toxic or cause allergies. For example, although camphor has a relatively significant repellent effect, it is irritating and not suitable for children.

Plant essential oil mosquito repellent products should choose safe formula or big brand products, brand endorsement testing can ensure quality.


                                                                                                                                                                                                               Friends of Science issue 8, 2023

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