Some places lack concerted mosquito control and abatement. Individuals fend for themselves with a variety of products. Mosquito coils
are commonly used in parts of the world to deter mosquitos. They are rated at about 80% effective in detering mosquitoes. A mosquito coil is incense in the shape of a coil that is impregnated with pyrethoid insecticide and other materials that irritate or repel mosquitoes. The active chemicals are released into the air by lighting the coil. Typical coils burn for several hours. Toxicologists have questioned whether breathing the fumes from these devices can be harmful. Sometimes the “other ingredients” are toxic
The US-EPA regulates mosquito coils sold in the US and does not approve coils that contain a chemical called “S2” (octachlorodipropyl ether) that acts as a pyrethroid synerist in mosquito coils. S2 is not allowed in the US but is used as an ingredient in some mosquito coil products manufactured and sold in Asia. S2 can produce a degredation product (BCME) which is carcinogenic and can cause lung cancer. Studies* have found higher incidence of unusual lung cancers in workers involved in manufacture of mosquito coils. Although sales of products containing S2 are not permitted in the US, some of the products containing S2 may be obtained through online sales or other means. These products are still marketed in other countries with less strict rules than the US. It is best practice to limit exposure to such products. For mosquito deterrence, a repellent applied to the skin can be a safer alternative to chemicals that might be inhaled.
*JIE ZHANG, HUI‐WEI QI, YU‐PING SUN, HUI‐KANG XIE and CAI‐CUN ZHOU. 2015. Mosquito coil exposure associated with small cell lung cancer: A report of three cases. Oncology Letters.
Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010).
This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog.
The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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Mosquito coils are very popular tools for mosquito control, especially in third-world countries. Unfortunately, their active ingredients also pose serious health threats, especially to children and the elderly. Always make sure to read the label of your mosquito coil to ensure that no harmful chemicals are added, and it should be used according to package instructions. If you are having serious problems with mosquitoes, it won’t hurt if you get professional help.