Is sight and smell of smouldering mosquito coils really keeping away the swarms of mosquitoes, and is breathing in the smoke worse than mosquito bites for our health? The burning of aromatic plant material to keep away swarms of mosquitoes is an integral part of many cultural traditions around the world. While traditional coils and sticks were made from a pyrethrum paste, modern mosquito coils mostly contain either pyrethroid insecticides or plant-derived substances such as citronella. Mosquito coils work in one of two ways. Those that contain insecticides will kill (or at least “knock down”) mosquitoes, while those that contain aromatic substances (such as citronella) will repel mosquitoes or reduce the likelihood they’ll bite. The insecticide products used are generally considered safe, but it’s the particulate matter produced from a smouldering mosquito coil that poses the greatest risk. Is it correct to conclude “burning one mosquito coil in a closed room amounts to smoking roughly 100 cigarettes” as some have claimed? In the face of this uncertainty, the key message should be to avoid prolonged exposure, especially in enclosed spaces.
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