GreenYour Insect repellent
Use nontoxic pest control devices
Rather than spraying yourself, your lawn, or your garden with bug sprays made of synthetic chemicals, consider using nontoxic pest control devices. These devices repel or trap insects without the use of DEET, DDT, and other toxic chemicals, protecting you and wildlife from the harmful effects of chemical bug sprays.
Find it! Nontoxic pest control devices
Using a nontoxic pest control device helps you go green because…
- It helps you to keep undesirable insects off of your skin and away from your plants without the use of commercial chemical pesticides that can harm human health and wildlife.
- It can prevent other pest problems. Using chemical insecticides can lead to resistant populations, and by killing beneficial predators, can even lead to rebound population explosions in the future.
In 2001, over 3 billion dollars worth of insecticides were purchased in the US, representing over one-third of the total world market. Nearly $1.3 billion was spent on insecticides for home and garden use, nearly as much as that used for commercial agriculture.
Exposure to small amounts of chemical pesticides can cause serious health problems in humans (especially children) and pets, and even those who do not use pesticides can suffer from their pervasive use. Pesticides may also harm the habitat of endangered species because of drift, runoff, or leachates that may contaminate the water, soil, or vegetation used by the species. Both the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon became endangered because of the use of the insecticide DDT, but populations rebounded after use of the insecticide was banned.
Insect repellents for personal use
One of the most widely used ingredients in bug repellents intended to be sprayed on the skin is N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET, as it's commonly known. Although DEET is approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is a known eye irritant and can cause rashes, soreness, or blistering when applied to the skin. Additionally, DEET has been linked to neurological problems; according to the EPA, at least 18 different cases of children suffering adverse nuerological effects, as well as the deaths of two adults, have been associated with DEET. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found that DEET causes diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats.
DEET has been shown to have a negative impact on wildlife and water sources in production and during use. DEET is toxic to birds and aquatic life. DEET has been found in approximately 75 percent of U.S. water sources, including the Mississippi River.
Chemically treated insect-repellent clothing
Chemically treated insect-repellent clothing may be treated with the pyrethroid pesticide permethrin, a synthetic version of the naturally occurring pesticide pyrethrin found in chrysanthemums. Permethrin is highly toxic to aquatic organisms and honeybees—concentrations of less than one part per billion can be lethal to some species. Permethrin is so toxic to some aquatic organisms that any detectable level of the chemical in estuarine waters (even less than one part per billion) will likely be associated with negative effects on wildlife, and it can kill some organisms at levels that are not even detectable in water. Although permethrin has a relatively short half-life in the environment, it has routinely been found in ground and surface water at levels that are toxic to wildlife.
Many companies market ultrasonic pest control devices as good nontoxic alternatives to chemical bug sprays. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that they actually work. Between 1985 and 1997, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought complaints against several companies based on false advertising claims, but the devices continue to be sold.
- Beyond Pesticides
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Pest Control Devices
- Radcliffe's IPM World Textbook
- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
- Radcliffe's IPM World Textbook The IPM "bible"
- University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program Useful resource for identifying pests with suggestions for managing them
- US Environmental Protection Agency - 2000-2001 Pesticide Market Estimates: Sales
- Canadian Peregrine Foundation - Have peregrine falcons and bald eagles recovered in Ontario to the point that the Province of Ontario should be down listing them?
- Cornell - DEET Mosquito Repellent: New pharmacology study of impacts
- About.com - The Downside of DEET Insect Repellents: Health and Environmental Risks Associated with the Use of DEET
- Permethrin Insecticide Fact Sheet - Abstract/Introduction
- Permethrin Insecticide Fact Sheet - Other Aquatic Animals
- US Federal Trade Commission - FTC Warns Manufacturers and Retailers of Ultrasonic Pest-control Devices
- University of Nebraska - Considering Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices? Save Your Money