What about the mosquito repellents you use?

As an ecologically conscious consumer, have you ever looked at the latest insect repellent gear or technologies that promise magical results? Just consider a wristband that promises to keep away the deadliest mosquito when your kid is playing outdoors is perhaps made from potentially toxic chemicals that will harm the environment. Even after being dumped, such non-biodegradable items will continue to leak chemical traces into the soil or water.

According to the World Health Organisation

“…about 250 million people contract malaria each year, and about 900,000 of them die of it. Almost all of them are children” The mosquito scare is big enough to create ignorance about the environmental impact of insect repellents.
Providing Context to the Discussion

With an accumulation of over 3000 species of mosquitoes in the world, studies have come to show that only a few amongst those species transmit diseases yet, are still responsible for transmission of more diseases than any creature in the world. Breeding in water, it is extremely challenging to control their population and preventive measures prove to be temporary. Other insects and creepy crawlies can turn into potentially fatal enemies for children, often jeopardizing their play time and forcing concerned parents to debate their children’s’ outdoor games/activities. Fighting irritated skin, insect bites, red itchy stings, constant swatting and the continuous buzz of horror, makes it a necessity to stock your cupboards with insect repellents, Sprays, oils, ointments, creams, harmful insect repelling coils and in every other possible form, insect repellents have created a customer market across the globe. But is it wise to keep using these products blindly, ignorant to their ill-effects on the environment?

The Change is Underway

The crisis of climatic change and global warming has brought about considerably large changes in households across the world. Be it energy saving, recycling, switching to inexhaustible resources, or opting for products that don’t take a toll on the ecology, consumers are increasingly making more educated choices. The latest entrant in this segment has been Insect Repellents—often supposed to be synonymous with chemical formulations, these household-use sprays and lotions are now being evaluated for their carbon footprints too.

Carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with all activities of a person or entity. In addition, the carbon footprint concept often includes emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, nitrous oxide, or chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)Encyclopedia Britannica

If you are evaluating an insect killer or mosquito repellent for its ecological impact, you have to consider two factors:

First, the Sustainability

Depletion of natural resources is the ultimate result of large-scale carbon footprints, with greenhouse gases playing a major role in the soaring temperature range. Insect repellents that have been created without bothering about the energy consumption too become contributors. Just think of electrical bug killers that often double-up as terminators for common house flies and mosquitoes. Despite stringent standards in benchmarking home electronics for power consumption or the ability to operate without inflating the energy bill, many mainstream electrical insect killers are high on energy consumption. Similarly, insect-repelling wipes might be created from highly wasteful industrial practices. Their use is often rationalised with the need to protect the kids but there are better options!

Secondly, the Eco-friendliness

While sustainability is about the consumption of natural resources that cannot be quickly replenished, eco-friendliness is about harming the environment. Though an efficient insect repellent, DEET, a substance of choice in many retailed repellents, has been found to be harmful, for the environment and people. It can cause irritation, blisters and rashes. This has resulted in Canada banning products with more than 30% content of DEET.  The US EPA regards DEET as “slightly toxic” to birds, fish, and aquatic life. An ultrasonic repellent machine creates electromagnetic waves that kill besides the targeted insects. This means an unwanted impact on the environment. The concern also arises when bug repelling coil leftovers and spray cans are dumped without thinking about their environmental impact. Mosquito coils create toxic pollutants consisting of CO, VOCs, SO2, NO2 and particulate matter – these not only constitute the greenhouse gases but also contribute to health risks like respiratory problems or allergic reactions, especially among kids.

Emission of formaldehyde from burning one coil can be as high as that released from burning 51 cigarettes. Exposure to smoke produced from burning of mosquito coils has been implicated in lung cancer – is this worth the risk when you want to protect your family and the environment?

Making an Easier Transition is Difficult

Google searches will yield plenty of natural oil blends that can help keep away the insects but try them once and you will realize the sheer impracticality of the entire idea. Similarly, retailed plant extracts that have some insect-repelling properties don’t hold-up during the mosquito season. Dig deeper and chances are that you might come across tips like building a bat house because bats are known to be insectivores! Combine this with the plenty of carbon footprint calculators out there. Chances are that most of the help available will overwhelm you. The challenge really is about finding a realistic solution that you can easily adopt.

Treated Textiles & Fabrics Show the Way

Contemporary textile blends and finishes create a fine example of how something as basic as clothing can be a great tool to keep away infections. Just consider the many anti-microbial athletic wear options or fabrics treated to wick-away moisture and sweat. Some experts refer to this as fabrics with bio-functional agents or special treatments. Many of these easy-care fabrics are not very expensive and maintain a better level of sanitation despite exposure to the outdoors. Not just clothes, anti-microbial textiles have made it to camping gear and sleeping hammocks.

Doing away with the overuse of chemical dyes, such fabrics better tolerate washing cycles and don’t leak harmful chemicals in the laundry room or on the human skin. Though it cannot be said with 100% certainty that the carbon footprints of such treated fabrics or textiles is always lower than a conventional insect repellent, the chances are rather high. Many apparel brands are now seeking global certifications for sustainable, ecological performance of such fashion wear/apparels.

Insect-repellent Clothing

Sustainable, Environmentally-compatible & Surprisingly Easy!

BugShield represents an emerging standard for clothes treated with Insect Shield™ Technology .Invariably, this brand is inspired by the novel approach of treating fabrics, optimising them for anti-insect and ecologically-sensitive performance. The choice of fabric treatment here is critical. The emphasis is on using naturally-derived compounds rather than chemicals that pose a threat to your family and the environment. With apparel designs for daily wear, casual-wear and outdoor-wear, BugShield Clothing ensures there is always an option for fashionably covering the kids in clothes that also protect against deadly mosquito bites.