Is That Bug Spray Worth Your Health?

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Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 06/02/2014

Is That Bug Spray Worth Your Health?

Earth Day has become such an incredible movement over the past several decades that it’s hard not to feel motivated to make small changes in our lives that could have a sizable positive impact on our planet.

Most people recycle, which is a great start. And far more people than ever are attempting to use their cars less by walking, biking, or using public transportation.

But there’s one area that I believe more people should think about—pesticide use. It has a massive impact on the planet, not to mention our health.

Pesticides are neurotoxins that increase the risk of neurological problems in humans, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). They also cause a host of acute symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, brain fog, numbness, burning or tingling sensations, poor memory, muscle spasms, and migrating pain.

Organophosphates, one of the main types of pesticides out there, destroy the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. If you want to see what a case of Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease looks like in fast motion, watch a bug after spraying it with pesticide. These chemicals are nerve agents that irreversibly inactivate acetylcholinesterase, which is essential to the production of the acetylcholine needed for nerve function in humans, animals, and insects. Pesticides and other organophosphate-containing products kill by attacking the nervous system of insects—and of humans as well.

In addition, many pesticides are petroleum-based and oil soluble. When fish or animals ingest these pollutants, their bodies have no specific mechanisms for detoxifying them. As such, these oil- or fat-soluble compounds become embedded in fatty tissues. These harmful toxins gradually move up the food chain and eventually show up in humans.

Fortunately there are natural ways to keep insects from coming into your home. One such alternative is sprinkling cayenne pepper around the edge of the house to repel ants. Nontoxic pesticides made from natural oils, such as clove and orange oil, are also available.

Neem is another option. It works as an insect repellent and pesticide.

Neem contains a compound called salannin, which biting insects hate. In fact, it's more effective at repelling biting insects than the synthetic chemical DEET—the main active ingredient in many consumer insect repellents.

As an insecticide, concentrations of less than one-tenth of a part per million of Neem have been shown to work just as well as synthetic preparations like DDT, Malathion, Dieldrin, or Diazinon. Neem's mode of action, however, is totally different.

Generally, Neem extracts don't instantly kill pests. Instead, the extracts contain compounds with the same shape and structure as insect hormones. The insects absorb these compounds, which block their endocrine systems and disrupt their reproductive cycle. Even though the amount of time it takes to eliminate pests may last a week or two, the end result is more preferable. No harmful residues are left to contaminate the environment, and the insects don't develop a resistance to the insecticide.

Finally, more organic professional pest control companies are available. If you don’t want to take matters into your own hands, then I recommend calling one of these companies.

Now it's your turn: What do you use as a natural pesticide or bug spray?

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