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Zappers among ineffective mosquito-control measures

Monday - 6/9/2014, 8:05am  ET

mosquito (AP/PRNewsFoto/Orkin)
According to Orkin, June, July and August are prime months for mosquito activity in most areas due to warmer temperatures, but the season can stretch through October. (AP/PRNewsFoto/Orkin)

WASHINGTON -- Backyard bug zappers are among products that aren't particularly effective at controlling mosquitoes and they might actually attract the flying blood suckers, according to Consumer Reports.

"There's no evidence that there's a correlation between the number of bugs that you see in your bug zapper and reducing the number of bugs you see in your yard," says Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports' Deputy Content Editor for Health And Food.

Other products Consumer Reports says don't live up to claims to repel mosquitoes:

  • Devices that give off sound waves;
  • Wrist bands said to contain repellent;
  • Dietary supplements, such as garlic or vitamin B1 pills;
  • Clip-on fan devices.

Consumer Reports finds the "Off Clip-on" repellent that attaches to waistbands or belts doesn't work very well.

And the consumer's group says the active ingredient metofluthrin can pose risks to human nervous systems.

"It can be potentially harmful. We just don't know what the side effects are of breathing that in," says Calvo.

"You're walking around in a cloud of insect repellent," she says.

What's considered by many to be most effective at keeping away mosquitoes and ticks -- DEET -- could pose potential health risks, Consumer Reports says. DEET can cause skin irritation, slurred speech and other serious side effects when used in high concentrations, according to the group.

"If you're going to resort to DEET, you want to use something that has 30 percent or less concentration of the chemical, says Calvo.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency finds most reports of adverse effects caused by DEET to be inconclusive, and estimates the incidence of seizures following DEET exposure is low at about one per 100 million users.

To avoid any potential risks or issues Consumer Reports recommends people first try plant bases repellents with active ingredients lemon eucalyptus or picaridin.

"They work almost as well as DEET does," says Calvo.

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