Bug spray.. unfortunately an outdoor necessity.
So I’m sure you all know by now, but I love camping and being outdoors! What I don’t love though, are bugs.. specifically their bites! I’m the type of person that attracts bugs. If I’m sitting with a group of people, I’m the one the mosquitoes and black flies will single out and swarm. There’s nothing worse than not being able to enjoy sitting around the fire or cook a meal because little biting bastards are trying to suck you dry.
I also really detest the smell and stickiness of most bug sprays, so much so that I would rather deal with the bites than have to spray on that nasty crap. It’s also super toxic. DEET is one chemical that is super popular in bug sprays, but it’s not great for humans or the environment.
Did you know that DEET can melt plastic and fishing line? That can’t be good for your skin! It’s also been discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET may impair cell function in parts of your brain, according to a pharmacologist at Duke University. This was demonstrated in the lab by death and behavioural changes in rats with frequent or prolonged DEET use. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any help destroying more brain cells! Corbel from the University of Angersrcherssays “We’ve found that DEET is not simply a behaviour-modifying chemical but also inhibits the activity of a key central nervous system enzyme, acetycholinesterase, in both insects and mammals.”
Another chemical that is frequently found in many bug sprays is Permethrin. Permethrin is a neurotoxin, that is extremely toxic to bees, cats and all aquatic life. How many of us use bug spray while we are camping beside a beautiful lake or river and don’t think twice about jumping in? Unfortunately it’s really hurting our aquatic creatures, and they are super important to ecosytems. The US EPA has catagorized Permethrin as carcinogenic, capable of causing lung tumors, liver tumors, immune system problems and chromosomal abnormalities. That’s some nasty stuff!
Both chemicals are pesticides and are directly absorbed into our blood through our skin. Studies are now showing that exposure to insect repellents and other pesticides indicates a higher risk of cancers, typically of the blood, brain, lymph system, soft tissues, stomach, prostate and breast. In children, exposure to insect repellents also indicates an increased risk of various forms of cancer, as well as weakening of the immune system.
There are also a lot of nasty diseases that can come from mosquito bites. Things such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, west nile virus, and a whole list of encephalitis. Here in BC, Canada we don’t have many issues with most of these, but occasionally there are warnings about the west nile virus. We do have lots of ticks here as well, and many of them carry lyme disease. Lyme is a pretty brutal disease. Many people have to suffer for the rest of their lives with it once infected. Keeping the bugs away can be a health concern as well a comfort issue.
That being said, if I was heading out into the jungle or somewhere where there is a large chance of contracting some of those nasty diseases, I would suggest being more worried about the diseases than the DEET toxicity. This bug spray is great for general use outdoors in North America. Definitely protect yourself if you are travelling or know you are going to be in an area with diseased biters. Personally I’d wear both in those places!
So whats a girl to do to keep those bugs from biting, while also respecting the ecosystems? Make your own bug spray of course! I make mine with therapeutic grade essential oils. It keeps the little buggers from driving me crazy while also being non-toxic and natural. I’ve had success with it so far, and I love not having to use nasty pesticides on my skin. The secret is making sure you have high-quality oils, not the cheap stuff you can buy in grocery stores. There is a huge difference in the qualities available, so make sure you are using top quality ingredients.
I recommend Young Living, because they are the leading brand with the most experience and the highest standards of distillation. They also grow their own plants instead of sourcing it from random places like most companies. But there are other good companies out there as well. Do your research and make sure you pick something that works for you. Here’s my recipe!
If you are not familiar with essential oils you need to be aware that they degrade plastic. They allow the plastic chemicals to leech into the product, so never use plastic, only glass! I keep things in tinted blue or brown glass bottles to keep them safe from the sun. Especially the ones I use outside. When light enters the bottles it moves through the glass and turns into heat. Heat will speed the oxidation process and the oils will age prematurely. Also, try to keep oils out of areas that experience high temperatures. Do not leave your oils in the car especially during the summer. Putting them in the trunk will not necessarily stop the heat from ruining your oils. You need to make sure they are kept cool.
I keep my bug spray in a little toiletry bag that I keep with the cooler in the shade. Once oils have oxidized, their colour darkens and they will irritate the skin. Oils kept in cool areas out of the light, heat, and humidity can remain fresh for years. Take care of them and they will be good to you!