Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Are mosquito repellents safe?

Are mosquito repellents safe?

City Bureau

Chemicals used could harm humans in long run, say doctors Many are unaware of harmful effects

CHENNAI : From conventional mosquito nets to coils, mats, creams, sprays, liquid-vaporisers and electric devices, the mosquito repellents market has no shortage of products. In a booming market, incense sticks and herbal sprays have also found patronage.

But are they safe? Though consumers know about the products, many are unaware of the harmful effects of these products. V.S. Raghunathan, owner of Aesthetics, a store that sells repellent incense sticks, asks: "How can something that repels mosquitoes be good for human beings?"

Respiratory physician Jayashree Narasimhan says she advises patients to use topical repellents or cover windows with nets. "Smoke-based repellents can trigger wheezing attacks though it is hard to say if they cause the problem," she says. She does not advise the use of aerosol sprays, lest they trigger nose allergies or wheezing.

Dermatologist Muralidhar Rajagopalan says that he has not come across cases of skin irritations triggered by topical treatments. "They aren't harmful, but they aren't very effective unless you keep reapplying them," he says.

However, doctors note chemicals such as pyrethrum used in most repellents could harm humans in the long run. R. Kulandai Kasthuri, director, Institute of Child Health, says animal studies show nervous weakness as a major side effect. "We have no studies to indicate the harmful effects of repellents. However, we see that repellents aggravate asthma and other allergic manifestations in people, particularly children." She says the age-old practice of using a mosquito net is the safest.

``Figures do not give clear picture''

Though hospitals have reported a steady number over the years of malaria, dengue and chikungunya, doctors say the figures do not provide a true picture.

"More people seek treatment from private practitioners. They do not provide the figures to the Public Health Department," notes paediatric consultant S. Balasubramanian.

At the ICH, 300 children are admitted with malaria every year. Dengue is seasonal and with good water supply, the numbers have dropped. Chikungunya does not affect children but quite a few children may escape the net of malaria and dengue though they may suffer from viral infections spread by mosquitoes, Dr. Balasubramanian says. Hospitals such as Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital to which he is attached, follow World Health Organisation standards. Blood tests, not done unless absolutely necessary, alone can reveal how many children are really affected by mosquito bites.

A small but significant segment of "upper strata" children suffer rashes after being exposed to mosquito bite for the first time, he says. But they may not develop serious problems like the poor children.

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu

Courtesy_
THE HINDU

Date:06/03/2007
URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2007/03/06/stories/2007030616210400.htm


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