Karrine Steffans
August 22, 2013 9:00 am

This Has Been Bothering Me:

In learning about the malaria epidemic, namely in parts of Africa, I kept hearing the number-one line of defense is the use of mosquito nets –– sprayed with pesticides.

Now, I understand the the whole mosquito net thing. Being born and raised on the island of St. Thomas, one-third of the Virgin Islands, mosquito nets were a crucial part of our lives, especially as kids. You couldn’t throw a coconut without hitting a bassinet or a twin bed with a kid in it, protected by a mosquito net.

Not that you would want to! 

But, the point is, mosquito nets are a way of life for millions of people around the world who are threatened by mosquitos and the diseases they spread.

I lived that net life. I get it. 

And, at least twice a week, there was (what we called as kids)  the “Mosquito Truck” that came around late at night and sprayed pesticides into the air, throughout my tiny 30 mile island.

I lived that pesticide life, too. 

But, now, I am thirty-five years old and the mother of a teenager who swears he’s moving out in two-and-a-half years, when he turns eighteen, and I am doing my best to live the best life I can and teach him to do the same before he, eventually, leaves me for the real world.

I have been systematically replacing all the toxic products in my home with non-toxic, natural, and organic products, with help from The Honest Company. And I have changed my diet over the years, including more organic choices and canceling out almost all prepackaged foods.

It’s a process, but I’m doing it! 

In doing all of this, I am learning the dangers of chemicals, including pesticides. And, in working with the United Nations, parent to the World Health Organization, I found flaws in this pesticide-ladened mosquito net plan.

It’s just not healthy.

I don’t ever want to fly to Africa and hand over pesticide soaked mosquito nets to children and pregnant mothers.

I don’t want to fight diseases with poisons. 

Pesticides are designed to kill and because their mode of action is not specific to one species, they often kill or harm organisms other than pests, including humans. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 3 million cases of pesticide poisoning each year and up to 220,000 deaths, primarily in developing countries. The application of pesticides is often not very precise, and unintended exposures occur to other organisms in the general area where pesticides are applied. Children, and indeed any young and developing organisms, are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides. Even very low levels of exposure during development may have adverse health effects.

Pesticide exposure can cause a range of neurological health effects such as memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behavior, and reduced motor skills. These symptoms are often very subtle and may not be recognized by the medical community as a clinical effect. Other possible health effects include asthma, allergies, and hypersensitivity, and pesticide exposure is also linked with cancerhormone disruption, and problems with reproduction and fetal development.

Pesticide formulations contain both “active” and “inert” ingredients. Active ingredients are what kill the pest, and inert ingredients help the active ingredients to work more effectively. These “inert” ingredients may not be tested as thoroughly as active ingredients and are seldom disclosed on product labels. Solvents, which are inert ingredients in many pesticide formulations, may be toxic if inhaled or absorbed by the skin.

Children are at greater risk from exposure to pesticides because of their small size: relative to their size, children eat, drink, and breathe more than adults. Their bodies and organs are growing rapidly, which also makes them more susceptible; in fact, children may be exposed to pesticides even while in the womb. –Toxipedia

I always believe there is a better way and I always believe that the Earth has everything we need, that there are sustainable ways to heal. So, I began to wonder, why can’t we spray these nets with plant-based mosquito repellents?

Now, it’s just a thought but, I’m sure this already exists, right? 

Right? 

I’m still Googling. 

  • Ageratum or Floss Flower: Ageratum houstonianum
  • Basil: Ocimum basilicum
  • Cadaga Tree: Eucalyptus torelliana
  • Catmint: Nepeta faassenii
  • Catnip: Nepeta cataria
  • Citronella Grass: Cymbopogon nardus
  • Clove Tree: Syzygium aromaticum.
  • Horsemint or Lemon Beebalm: Monarda citriodora
  • Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia.
  • Lemon Balm: Melissa officinalis
  • Lemon Grass: Cymbopogon citrates
  • Lemon Scented Geranium:Pelargonium crispum
  • Lemon Verbena: Aloysia triphylla
  • Mexican Marigold Mint: Tagetes lucida
  • Mindanao Gum Tree: Eucalyptus deglupta
  • Pennyroyal: Mentha pulegium
  • Peppermint: Mentha piperita
  • Pitcher Plant: Nepenthes alata
  • Prostrate Rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostrates’
  • Red-Flowering Gum Tree: Eucalyptus ficifolia
  • Roman Wormwood: Artemisia pontica
  • Rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Silver Dollar Tree: Eucalyptus cinerea
  • Tansy: Tanacetum vulgare
  • Wormwood: Artemisia absinthium
  • Wormwood: Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

So, is there no other way? I mean, all these things exist and our go-to is pesticides? I certainly don’t have all the answers but, by God, I sure do have a shit ton of questions.

And you should, too. 

This doesn’t just raise questions about mosquito nets but, also, our food and environment. Why are the powers that be trying to kill us?  So that we can get sick, so that we could buy expensive medications, so that our insurance companies can shell out massive amounts of dollars for hospital stays and surgeries, so that we can just fucking die at the end of this battle?

But not the people in Africa and other impoverished nations.

They just die. 

It’s time to care. This isn’t just about people you’ve never met in countries you’ll never visit. This is about you, too, and your kids and your mom and all your friends.

The best thing we can do, right now, is to support locally grown, organic, pesticide free foods and put more money into that industry than any other. Show them they matter and that we need them.

We may or may not be able to help everyone or rip pesticides from the grips of the greedy and stop them from doing more harm, but we can start at home.  We can save the lives of those around us. We can minimize the chance of cancers and deaths. We can change, at the very least, our corner of the world. We can and we have to!​

So start. 

Please. 

Advertisement