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The Power of Non-toxic Mosquito Repellents

Authored by Maya Gowda


We often look towards medical advancements to cure our health problems, but have we ever looked at the nature around us as a possible solution? Plant extracts or oils have proven to be efficient mosquito repellents. Research surrounding this topic has become increasingly important because of climate change, which is causing more areas worldwide to be suitable for mosquitoes to breed. This anomaly increases the prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and Zika, which can be deadly in communities that lack healthcare resources. It is increasingly detrimental to these communities to use current mosquito repellents that contain toxic chemicals like N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET). 


DEET has proven to be effective; however, it can have harmful effects on the body, such as skin irritation, rashes, allergies, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating in regular activities. Although DEET is not a classified human carcinogen [1], non-toxic mosquito repellents are optimal in preventing future medical complications. Using natural ingredients—approved by federal agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—effectively avoids harmful medical complications. Additionally, lemongrass, lavender, and citronella are essential oils that are proven to have an effective repellency of eight hours against multiple Anopheles, which is one of the most common mosquito species [2]. For example, Cymbopogan citratus (lemongrass) and Cymbopgan nardus (citronella) oils have protected about 95-96% against Culex quinquefasciatus, which is a type of Anopheles species. 


Multiple studies have shown that lotions with natural oils can effectively repel mosquitoes. When Mentha spicata oil (spearmint oil) was a cream, it had a protection time of about four hours [3]. Also, aerosol sprays in cans may be harmful to the environment, which means that lotions are the better option. Additionally, oil extract from Cymbopogan was determined to be one of the “most effective natural repellents in the world” [3]. Many studies have also shown that mosquitoes are developing resistance to mosquito repellents that are commonly used today [3]. Learning about mosquitos’ resistance to certain repellents can help scientists improve their knowledge about the most effective ingredients necessary for mosquito repellents [4]. Although the repellency time of these natural repellents is lower than the repellency rate for products that contain DEET, it is less harmful to use natural repellents. 


In addition to using repellents and other preventive materials for mosquito-borne illnesses, countries have started to implement policies. For instance, India accounts for “1.7% of global malaria cases and 1.2% of global malaria deaths” [5]. This devastation has led the Indian national government to assist with malaria prevention through the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, which has proven to be successful for many communities across India [6]. Global organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), are also working with countries like India to decrease the prevalence of mosquito-borne illnesses [7].


To ensure that communities understand the necessity of using natural repellents, there should be education about mosquito-borne illnesses and the importance of using repellents that will not cause harm. Students need to learn about this problem at a young age, especially in communities where multiple people are affected by mosquito-borne illnesses. A world where people can naturally protect themselves from prevalent mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, and Zika will be a much healthier world. 







Works Cited


  1. PUBLIC HEALTH STATEMENT FOR DEET. (2017, August 1). Www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov; Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (US). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK592106/#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20EPA

  2. Asadollahi, A., Khoobdel, M., Zahraei-Ramazani, A., Azarmi, S., & Mosawi, S. H. (2019). Effectiveness of plant-based repellents against different Anopheles species: a systematic review. Malaria Journal, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-019-3064-8

  3. Ojewumi, M. E., Obanla, O. R., & Atauba, D. M. (2021). A review on the efficacy of Ocimum gratissimum, Mentha spicata, and Moringa oleifera leaf extracts in repelling mosquito. Beni-Suef University Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 10(1), 87. https://doi.org/10.1186/s43088-021-00176-x

  4. Mosquitoes resistant to DDT are also resistant to mosquito net insecticide. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2023, from https://www.biomedcentral.com/about/press-centre/science-press-releases/25-feb-2014  

  5. India. (n.d.). Severe Malaria Observatory. Retrieved October 30, 2023, from https://www.severemalaria.org/countries/india-0

  6. Rahi, M., & Sharma, A. (2020). For malaria elimination India needs a platform for data integration. BMJ Global Health, 5(12), e004198. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2020-004198

  7. Global Malaria Programme. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2023, from https://www.who.int/teams/global-malaria-programme

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