Fuming mosquito repellents 100 times more harmful than cigarettes: Dr Kshama Aghor

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Kirti Ranshoor

Nashik doctors stress on the use of herbal mosquito repellent creams.

Following heavy rains and with increasing number of people suffering from vector-borne diseases like dengue, the demand and use of mosquito repellents has gone up sharply in recent days. Some people regularly use electric mosquito repellent liquids, some burn coils and incense sticks. Nashik doctors advise minimum use of chemical repellents and opting for traditional and herbal ways of repelling them to ensure protection from mosquitoes, which may cause life threatening illnesses like dengue and malaria. Doctors also advise that focus should be more on mosquito eradication and ultimate swatting!!

Surgical Oncologist Dr Raj Nagarkar and Gynaecologist Dr Kshama Aghor advise a strict no-no to repellents that produce fumes, smoke or vapours.
Dr Kshama Aghor spoke about mosquito coil emissions and its health implications.

She said, “The major active ingredients of coil are pyrethrins. Burning coils to generate smoke is a common practice in households across India. The insecticide evaporates with smoke on burning the coil which prevents mosquitoes from entering the room. Burning one coil would release the same amount of PM25 particulate matter that is less than 2.5 microns in diameter as burning about 75-137 cigarettes. The emission of formaldehyde from burning one coil can be as high as that released from burning 51 cigarettes. Remaining components of mosquito coil are organic fillers, binders, dyes and other additives capable of smouldering well.

“The combustion of the remaining materials generates large amounts of submicrometer particles and gaseous pollutants. These submicrometer particles can reach the lower respiratory tract that may get coated with a wide range of organic compounds, some of which are carcinogens or suspected carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) generated through incomplete combustion of mosquito coil base materials. Long term exposure to coil can induce asthma,” she added.

People might face the dilemma of saving themselves from mosquitoes which might cause life threatening disease or repellents which might cause cancer. But doctors provide useful tips to help them save themselves from this confusion.

Surgical Oncologist Dr Raj Nagarkar says, “Burning incense sticks releases heavy metals like lead, iron and manganese in the air. Various studies suggest that inhaling these toxic fumes can cause lung cancer. The inhaled smoke can affect the bone marrow. There should be a constant effort to educate people to use nets to avoid being bitten. NMC should locate mosquito harbouring places and take preventive measures.”

Plants can buzz mosquitoes off
Vitreo Retinal surgeon Dr Amol Wankhede says, “Repellent smoke can cause conjunctivitis. Smoke released from repellents can go into the bloodstream. Our body is capable of throwing toxins out of the body through urine to some extent. But regularly inhaling mosquito repellent smoke can cause health problems. People who use aerosol repellents should keep their places ventilated and avoid getting exposed to the fumes of the repellents. Different people have different susceptibilities to diseases. Every person’s immunity varies. People should plant trees like Citronella grass which can repel mosquitoes.”

Clean India Movement
Intensivist Dr Ruchira Khasne said, “Preventive measures should be taken. Emphasis should be given on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Movement. There are side effects of repellents, but sometimes we have to give more importance to the benefits rather than the side effects, if mosquito borne diseases turn epidemic.”

Go Herbal
Dr Nagarkar advises, “Only herbal creams should be used as repellents.” Dr Kshama says, “Don’t use repellents that contain DEET (chemical name – N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), which is the active ingredient in many insect repellent products. New born babies should not be exposed to any repellent at all. Wear full sleeved clothes. Cover your body with clothes to avoid being bitten.”

Specicide
Dr Kshama stressed on specicide of a few species of mosquitoes. She said, “It is necessary to make disease carrying mosquito species extinct to save millions of people who die every year due to malaria, dengue, etc.”

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