But he smells like an Orange Julius
May 27, 2012 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Is my cousin's alternative bug repellent safe?

A cousin of mine who lives in a very buggy area (mosquitoes, terrible ticks, etc.) e-mailed me this week to tell me about how he has been using Pure Citrus Orange air freshener, a 'natural' air freshener made from citrus oils, as an insect repellent. He says it works extremely well and because it's described as natural, he feels that it's better than regular bug spray. I'm not convinced.

He apparently sprays it on his clothes and his body (not his face), and after visiting the website for the manufacturer and even reading the product safety sheet, I'm at a loss to justify my feeling that this might not be a healthy choice, even though the product has no phthalates, the usual culprits in air freshener nastiness.

So what am I missing here? Am I just being overly cautious? I told him I suspected it wasn't very safe, but now I'm not so sure that I'm in the right.
posted by yellowcandy to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Terpenes are "natural" in that they're derived from plants. In this case, citrus fruits.

But then you could also say turpentine is "natural," and terpenes make up turpentine.

Bottom line: Anything is toxic in a sufficient dose. Use caution, but he's not smearing himself with nerve gas.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:19 PM on May 27, 2012

Best answer: So at first I was going to say: "Contact dermititis, light headaches and dizziness from inhalation (and it's in the air if he's spraying it), and flammable (page 2, keep away from heat and spark). I mean, as air fresheners go that's probably not bad, but spraying flammable things on your clothes in the kind of place where one might, say, have an outdoor fire seems like a bad idea somehow."

But then I looked up the
MSDS from Off! bug spray for comparison, and it's flammable too!

So I don't think it's worse than "standard" bug spray. You might suggest citronella as something less odd.
posted by mendel at 6:30 PM on May 27, 2012

In all likelyhood it just contains moderately low concentrations of limonene. I would say that it is perfect lsafe to use on the skin, unless you are allergic or sensitized to it and even in that case you would just get a mild rash so if there isn't a rash then you would be all set.
posted by koolkat at 2:54 AM on May 28, 2012

Best answer: I think the larger danger is that the stuff really isn't that effective on insects and he gets chewed up by mosquitoes one night.
posted by COD at 6:05 AM on May 28, 2012

I think it might make him very photosensitive, so wear sunscreen, too.
posted by instamatic at 9:02 AM on May 28, 2012

Response by poster: Mendel, I see from that MSDS for Off! that my cousin's crazy air freshener actually seems like a safer product than proper insect repellent. Sheesh.
posted by yellowcandy at 5:38 PM on May 28, 2012

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