Mosquito Coils – What are the risks?

Mosquito Coils – What are the risks?

Posted on January 14, 2014 in Mosquitos | Share on Facebook | Twitter | Google+

Mosquito Coils – What are the risks?

Mosquito Coils were first developed by Japanese business man, Elichiro Ueyama in 1890. At that time in Japan people were mixing pyrethrum powder (derived from dried Chrysanthemum flowers for its insecticidal properties) with sawdust and burnt in a brazier to keep mosquitoes away. Ueyama and his wife refined his incense sticks until in 1905 they produced the spiral coil we know today. While originally made from natural pyrethrum, mosquito coils are now mostly made with a pyrethroid, a synthetic version pyrethrum. This is done to increase stability as natural pyrethrum is degraded by sunlight and becomes ineffective after a few hours of direct sunlight, where as a pyrethroid will not degrade as quickly.

There is no doubt that mosquito coils are effective, they work by masking our scent and body heat from the mosquito. This is achieved by the smoky plume released by the coils. As most mosquito coils are used at night and in enclosed areas a question must be asked. With all the smoke from the mosquito coil, sometimes burning for up to 8 hours, what health risks are we exposing ourselves to?

We all know the dangers of smoking, from both direct inhalation and 2nd hand smoke, but what about the smoke from mosquito coils? The smoke from one mosquito coil burnt from beginning to end releases particulates into the air that are equivalent to between 75 and 135 cigarettes. That would be like sleeping in a room with a chain smoker while they smoke a few packs of cigarettes, not something you would voluntarily do. Some studies have found prolonged use of mosquito coils to be harmful to several organs in the body; this can lead to corneal damage to the eye, shortness of breath, asthma, damage to the liver in long term use and even fertility issues in both men and women.

Formaldehyde has also been found in the smoke released by mosquito coils. The amount of formaldehyde released by a single mosquito is the same as 50 cigarettes! Formaldehyde is not an ingredient in mosquito coils but a by product generated when the coils are burnt. Formaldehyde primarily affects the nose and inhaling it can cause watery eyes, sore throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea and skin irritations. Formaldehyde has also been linked to nasal and sinus cancers and leukaemia. All in all not something you want to inhale.

Recently an even more worrying chemical has been found in mosquito coils coming out of China. Some recent studies of mosquito coils in Asia and the United States have found an unlisted ingredient in unregistered mosquito coils available for sale from China. This chemical is called Otachlorodipropyl Ether or S-2, this is a synergist used in mosquito coils to increase the effectiveness of the active ingredient. While the active ingredient in mosquito coils, usually one type of Allethrin or another, is safe to humans, the S-2 synergist is highly dangerous to humans. When burnt by the smouldering mosquito coil S-2 degenerates into BCME, Bis (chloromethyl) Ether. BCME is an extremely potent lung carcinogen; some believe it to be the most potent carcinogen known. That is not to say all mosquito coils have this ingredient in them, most don’t. If you do choose to use mosquito candles make sure they are approve for use in your country. In Australia, always check for an Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) approval number, this should be on the front of the box. This ensures the products are safe and approved for use.

As with any effective chemical insect repellent the side effects must be weighed against the benefits. In Australia most of us are lucky that we don’t have to make this decision based on the threat of being infected with a mosquito borne disease or exposure to potentially life threatening chemicals and toxic smoke. Always be aware of the potential dangers in any chemicals you use around your family pets and friends and always use them in well ventilated areas.

And remember you can always try the SureDuz Mosquito Candle; it’s odourless and smokeless and has been approved for use by the APVMA.

This summer spend time with family and friends, not mosquitoes.

For further information regarding mosquito coils and their effects click on the links below.