How safe is it to use mosquito coil? Are they good or bad for our health?

The Department of Medical Entomology, New South Wales Health Pathology, has been engaged by a wide range of insect repellent and insecticide manufacturers to provide testing of products and provide expert advice on mosquito biology.Local, state and federal agencies have funded research into mosquito-borne disease management.

The smell of smouldering mosquito coil is a mainstay of summer.Is breathing in the smoke worse than mosquito bites for our health, and is all that smoke really keeping away the swarms of mosquitoes?

The burning of aromatic plant material to keep away swarms of mosquitoes is an important part of many cultural traditions around the world.It wasn't until the early 1900s that the mosquito coil was born, thanks to Japanese entrepreneurs.

Modern mosquito coils are usually made from pyrethrum paste or plant-derived substances.They are cheap, portable and effective at reducing mosquito bites, but do they reduce the risks of mosquito-borne disease?

There is a mix of substances in the mosquito coils.There are also products that hold the coil together and allow it to smoulder slowly.

There are two ways in which mosquito coils work.Those that contain pesticides will kill mosquitoes, while those that have aromatic substances will repel mosquitoes or reduce the likelihood they will bite.

The role of mosquito coils in killing or repelling mosquitoes has been studied.The ability of mosquitoes to bite people will generally be reduced by products that are tested differently.

When there is a risk of disease, you need to stop all mosquito bites.Is mosquito coiling doing enough?

More than half a million people are killed each year by mosquito-borne diseases.Malaria is the worst of these, with recent reports from the World Health Organisation suggesting the steady improvements in the burden of disease are slowing, and the situation may even be getting worse.

There are wide ranging impacts of the disease.There have been record-breaking epidemics of Ross River virus disease in Australia.

To prevent public health risk associated with mosquitoes, most people have to cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants and sleep under bed nets.

There is a general consensus among experts that mosquito coils can be useful in preventing mosquito-borne disease.There is no evidence that burning mosquito coil prevents malaria.There was no evidence that burning mosquito coil prevented the risk of dengue.

There are concerns about the health effects of burning mosquito coil and sticks indoors.The particulate matter produced from a smouldering mosquito coil is the greatest risk, even though the products used are generally considered safe.Some have claimed that burning one mosquito coil in a closed room equates to smoking 100 cigarettes.

Smoking cigarettes can lead to poor health outcomes.There is almost daily exposure to mosquito coil smoke in some countries.

One study estimated the particulate matter produced from burning one mosquito coil was equivalent to burning over 100 cigarettes.There is no evidence that long-term exposure to mosquito coil smoke increases the risk of lung cancer.In the face of uncertainty, the key message should be to avoid exposure in enclosed spaces.

All products that claim to kill or repel mosquitoes must be registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.A registration number can be found in the packaging.There are many variations ofmosquito coils, including sticks, candles, and plug-in devices.Some of the more dangerous chemicals found in mosquito coils are not used in products produced and sold in Australia.

There is enough evidence to show that burning a mosquito coil outdoors will help reduce mosquito bites, but should be used cautiously.The best protection is provided by using them in combination with insect sprays.Smokeless devices are worth considering as an alternative to their use in closed rooms.

Metofluthrin, an insect shown to hold great potential for managing mosquito-borne disease, has been made available in consumer products in Australia.Products of this nature are better suited to indoor use than mosquito coils, which may be important in controlling disease.

They can help knock off the mosquito in the bedroom that is making you sleepy at night.

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