In response to the every spring discussion on the neighborhood mom’s list about Mosquito Squad and other services that spray dangerous insecticide around homes and yards to combat mosquitoes and ticks. We have some women who profess to “love” these services. Wow. It’s really too bad that their uninformed choices have the potential to adversely affect so many others as well as ecosystem and environment.
We really do have this same convo every year. Since there is still confusion and repetition of the propaganda, Mosquito Squad, Backyard Bug Patrol and every other commercial sprayer are absolutely NOT using a natural, Chrysanthem-based product for their barrier sprays (that is pyrethrum and despite its “natural” nature is still a deadly insecticide). Instead, they are using synthetic pyrethroids which are manufactured chemicals of a similar structure to pyrethrum. One important distinction? The additives, possibly the truly nasty piperonyl butoxide (PBO), in the solution that drastically increase the longevity and killing power of the synthetics. There is no requirement for testing the final mixture or providing any safety data by any government or any other agency and the additives many times are stronger than the active listed ingredients. This stuff comes in on your shoes and your dog, it gets in your rug, couch, and bed and it collects in dust even in the cleanest of houses. In the case of MS they are using permethrin, BBP is using bifenthrin. (I have called and asked.)
These are neurotoxins. They confuse nerve pathways and kill bugs. They act on mammals in a similar way but don’t kill us as fast b/c our body mass is larger. They do, however, have some very serious consequences to people, never mind their horribly detrimental effects on marine and other ecosystems. This is bad stuff. Read the manufacturer-provided information (MSDS) about these chemicals and it will tell you enough to engender concern in most people.
Of biggest concern to me, and should be of concern to anyone who is around these products, on your own property or that of others, is the endocrine-disrupting capacity of most traditional insecticides. Research in the last few years has found that low dose, incidental exposure, especially when consistent, is definitively linked to a large number of the modern-day epidemics – diabetes, obesity, attention/learning issues, and yes, cancers, oh and don’t forget infertility. This is exactly the type of exposure that you are paying these companies to guarantee for your family, *and your neighbors*. Some endocrine disruptors have the capacity to cause harm in subsequent generations; the exposure in this generation could alter development in your children’s grandchildren.
Your pre-pubescent children are likely most at risk, whether in utero or already born. Our endocrine system rules body development, expression of genes and changes throughout life. In minuscule amounts, hormones act on the bodies of children, causing the vagaries of growth and development, controlling the long pathway to reproductive maturity, and other important items. Endocrine disruptors are hormone mimics, they can cause shifts in development the same way as actual hormones…forcing expression of genes that might never go expressed
or diseases that otherwise would never be a problem, or changing the way the body gets to adulthood or reproductive maturity in ways that “nature” never intended.
There are less toxic options at these commercial sprayers but they aren’t something you can write off as safe, however, they might be a better option for someone determined to spray. Some are garlic-based deterrents, or essential oil-based sprays intended to kill. Backyard Bug Patrol is using the term “organic” but this is misleading. Many people associate the word “organic” with health, less chemical use, safer etc…whereby here it simply means coming from products that are originally grown versus synthetically manufactured from the start. It is not organic like broccoli grown with no chemicals, but is instead a product of products that are originally grown and then are modified, and synthesized. 😉
Essential oils are fairly toxic. Rosemary particularly is actually a neurotoxin, its affect on nerves and nerve endings is why many people feel like it makes them feel ‘aware’ fairly quickly. Have to be careful not to overdo it. People with specific illnesses or medications must avoid various of these oils, and they can affect people differently, so it would be worth cataloging any known problems your family experiences as well as all drugs taken and cross referencing specific essential oil data for interaction problems if your family will be around this stuff long term. I’ve seen info on various oils from the University of MD Medical Center so Googling them and the specific oil hopefully would give you a place to start.
Don’t forget other additives like mineral oil, which, while it sounds innocuous, is a toxic petroleum product, a known carcinogen (can cause cancer), and very dangerous if ingested and hard to remediate once it happens. Oil is a mode of transport and a method to make the stuff stick where it is sprayed. It comes into your house while wet or dry, bringing in the chemicals that continue to affect your family and pets.
This stuff is just not benign and the people answering your questions at these businesses have done no research and are in the business of selling this stuff to make money, not a reliable source for safety data. Ask questions to get information and do your own research to assess, but don’t rely on them.
Mosquitoes are undoubtedly a royal nuisance. You can wear long sleeves and put any number of repellants onto clothing thus avoiding the skin contact. You can remediate the places where its possible and do your best, or you can choose this path that is being sold as a simple, easy solution and we all pay for it later. Other options to try include vitamin B1, eating more raw diet and fresh foods vs American processed, and avoiding perfumes and many personal care products that attract them.
With regard to ticks, vigilance is the only solution that makes sense. Strip your kids down and look them over, I don’t care how old they are. Because even if you choose to have a company spray your yard every other week all season, ticks will still be around, they will be at baseball or at the petting farm visit or in the big field where they play capture the flag. If you aren’t paying attention they’ll get into some crevice on your kid anyway and those are the ones you are likely to miss. Lyme ticks need to be attached for 36-48 hours to transmit disease, there is plenty of time for removal. So maybe its a pain, and takes some extra effort but that’s parenting, so let’s get on with it. Ticks are going to survive on this planet after all of the people are gone and I think its ludicrous to guarantee the poisoning of your family for what amounts to a terrible false sense of security.
TEDX Permethrin Citizens Guide
Environmental Factors and Breast Cancer