Indonesian Consumer Group Warns of Repellents’ Dangers

An Indonesian consumer group is pushing for mosquito repellents to carry labels warning of their dangers, the Jakarta Post recently reported.

Consumer activist AS Ilyani said it is not safe to use mosquito repellent because its poisonous residue might linger for an un­known period of time.

“But most people are lazy. They don’t want to trouble themselves [in getting rid of mosquitoes], and they prefer an instant way of doing it, by using mosquito repellent,” Ilyani of the Indonesian Consumers Founda­tion told The Jakarta Post.

She urged people to use alternative repellent methods. For example, an electric fan can get rid of mosquitoes because the bugs don’t like moving air.

“But people can also use mosquito nets while sleeping, or use protective nets in their windows,” Ilyani told the Post.

But even mosquito nets can prove ineffective without being impregnated with mosquito repellent, the World Health Or­ganization has found, because the malaria-carrying mosquitoes can still penetrate the net if there are small holes or tears. Efforts have been made recently to shift from the use of dangerous chemicals to a chrysanthemum flower-based repellent.

Ilyani has completed a label analysis of 17 mosquito repellent products, the Post report­ed. “The label analysis shows that all mosquito repellent products do mention the active sub­stance in their labels,” she told the Post. “But the information about the active substances is not followed by clear warnings.”

She said that warnings such as “danger poison,” “beware poisonous,” or “caution” should be based on the lethal dose contained in each product. But her analysis revealed that most products include a warning in the safety instruction, which might not be noticed by buyers of the product.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Inter­national Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesti­cides, the warning should be clearly stated below the product’s brand-name in capital letters and with an appropriate symbol, Ilyani told the Post.

She said mosquito repellents’ most dangerous active substance was DDVP—dichlorovynil di­metyl phosfat, or dichlorvos. It affects one’s health, and can lead to neurological, respiratory, reproductive and heart problems; it might even trigger cancer.

Another dangerous active substance is propoxur, which is considered moderately hazardous but also affects one’s health if inhaled or absorbed by one’s body. It can cause blurred vision, excessive sweating, dizziness, weakness and head­aches.

Another active substance that is often used is phyrethroid, which can cause skin and eye irritations and may cause asthma.

Mosquito repellents in the form of lotion are no less dangerous, Ilyani said. The products con­tain DEET, or Diethyl­tolu­amide, that might cause skin irritation.

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