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Consumer Reports: Bug Repellent Safety

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Consumer Reports has some important advice on how to avoid bug bites and at the same time limit exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals in insect repellents. (Published Friday, May 16, 2014)

    Summer is around the corner, and so are swarms of insects. Consumer Reports has some important advice on how to avoid bug bites and at the same time limit exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals in insect repellents.

    Consumer Reports has tested both types of repellents, those with DEET and plant-based ones without DEET, and thinks that DEET is an insect repellent that you should use as a last resort. And you should certainly not use it in any concentration of more than 30 percent. Consumer Reports’ tests show 30 percent DEET works very well, so products such as Jungle Juice 100, with almost 100 percent DEET, aren’t necessary.

    And with DEET exposure there are possible side effects, such as skin blisters, slurred speech, and even seizures or coma.

    NBC 5 contacted the makers of Jungle Juice 100, this was the company's reponse to the Consumer Reports findings:

    The EPA has done extensive studies on the safety of Deet used on the skin and has not concluded that it is a risk for humans to use. The CR statements are more so based on peoples opinions than medical evidence. The symptoms they describe relate to gross overuse of the product and not something virtually all usage would be exposed to.

    Further, we strongly disagree with their position to use repellents with lower concentrations of Deet rather than the 100% formulas. In fact, it should be just the opposite. When a company "cuts" the Deet to a lower percentage, they do so with water and alcohol. After the water and alcohol are gone (which is rather quickly) what is left are the pure Deet molecules. An alternative would be to apply the 100% Deet lightly thus leaving the same number of Deet molecules, but skipping the use of alcohol which is very rough on the skin. This technique works very well and should satisfy the concerns of people who prefer the efficacy of Deet but do not understand that 100% Deet is safe.

    Time release Deet lotions limit the amount of Deet in contact with the skin and thus extends the efficacy of the application. Sawyer's Controlled Release formula has actually been scientifically proven to significantly reduce the absorption of Deet by the skin, by 67% per application. It is an excellent option for week long or extended use of a repellent.

    We do agree that Picaridin is an excellent alternative and is actually more effective than Deet against the flies, gnats, and no-see-ums.

    Consumer Reports advises you to also avoid devices that clip on and use a fan to circulate repellent around you. Products such as Off Clip-on contain the active ingredient metofluthrin, which can pose risks to your nervous system. And Consumer Reports’ tests, done several years ago, found it doesn’t work very well anyway.

    NBC 5 contacted SC Johnson the makers of Off Clip-On this was the company's response to Consumer Reports' findings:

    The Consumer Reports article you referenced says the product didn’t perform well in testing conducted several years ago. We have asked that we be allowed to review its testing methodology, as this report is not consistent with the results of the extensive testing of which we are aware. We can verify the product has been proven highly effective in laboratory and field tests. It is ideal for leisure activities where you remain in one place – gardening, reading or watching a sporting event – as it provides head-to-toe protection. If you move, allow a few minutes for it to rebuild its head-to-toe protection.

    Additionally, at the extremely low levels present in OFF!® Clip-on,™ metofluthrin does NOT pose a neurotoxic risk, and consumers can use the OFF!® Clip-onTM Mosquito Repellent with confidence when used according to label directions. The levels of metofluthrin present are not even remotely close to levels where they would be a risk to the user.

    Metofluthrin, and specifically this Clip-OnTM product, are registered products with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Metofluthrin is an effective repellent ingredient that has gone through extensive toxicology testing and evaluation and has been approved by the U.S. EPA. In addition, the way it is used in OFF Clip-on™ has been approved by the U.S. EPA for consumer use.

    Regarding the effects that the Consumer Reports story referenced related to DEET, although the OFF!® Clip-on™ does not contain this ingredient, DEET has undergone extensive toxicity testing and review by the U.S. EPA. The EPA concluded that, as long as consumers follow label directions, insect repellents containing DEET do not present a health concern.

    Consumer Reports says instead consider using repellents that contain no DEET, such as Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus, or products with picaridin, which is similar to a compound in black pepper. One caution: The Centers for Disease Control says not to use repellents with eucalyptus on children younger than 3.

    Here are some other tips to avoid bugs — when you’re sitting outside, use a fan. It will help blow mosquitos away. And after a hike, put your clothes in the dryer to kill any ticks you brought home with you.

    Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.