28 June 2004, Deccan Herald
NEW DELHI, PTI: As rains come and mosquitoes get ready to bite, health experts are ringing alarm bells over mosquito repellants as research shows their use could lead to nausea, convulsions and eye problems.
These symptoms and disorders are caused by pyrethroids, a class of insecticides manufactured synthetically. Such chemicals are highly toxic and injurious to humans, says CUTS, a Safety Watch group, in its new publication — ‘Is it really safe?’.
“Researches abroad have already established that prolonged use of mats is harmful for several organs in the human body. It can lead to corneal damage, shortness of breath, asthma and even damage the liver in the long run,” say CUTS researcher Soumi Home Roy, also the author of the book.
The Gujarat State Consumers Protection Centre had conducted a study on mosquito repellants in public interest.
It requested the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to issue necessary orders to stop the manufacture and sale of repellants containing harmful insecticides. However, the health ministry has no say in the registration or de-registration of insecticides. As a result, nothing has happened so far, says Roy.
The Indian market for repellants is estimated to be Rs 500-600 crore, growing annually by 7-8 per cent. “This upward trend is mainly because of people’s willingness and capacity to buy repellants. Advertisements also play an important role in increasing the demand for these products. Although they highlight the easy-to-use features, they suppress vital information such as their possible effects on human health,” says Roy.
According to a study conducted at King George Medical College, Lucknow, mats and coils should be used only for a few hours at a time. Infants exposed to mats for a long time may get convulsions.
Recent studies at Industrial Toxicology Research Institute (ITRI) show that prolonged exposure to mosquito repellants can be hazardous to the health of children and pregnant woman.
“The vapours, when inhaled by a pregnant woman, can reach the foetus and later can also be passed on to the child through the mother’s milk during lactation. This can lead to brain damage in the baby,” the ITRI study says.
“Scented sticks, mats, coils and liquidators contain 1.5 to 3.6 per cent of allethrin and if the vapours are inhaled by children, it can be unsafe as it crosses the Blood Brain Barrier, which is at its formative stage among children,” the study says.