Can the Chemicals in Bug Spray Cause Cancer?

The air is thick, the days are long, and the mosquitos are out for the season. So you put on on some bug spray – but is it safe to spray chemicals directly onto your skin? If you’re concerned about cancer, the answer is keep slathering on the DEET, there’s no proof it’s a carcinogen.

There have only been a few studies on whether bug spray can increase cancer risk. These mostly looked at absorption through the skin. Dr. Kirsten Moysich, of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, said no link was found to cancer.

One main concern when it comes to bug spray is a well-known ingredient called DEET – a chemical with a strong smell. The Environmental Protection Agency did a study on DEET’s toxicity and determined that it is only “slightly toxic” – meaning when used occasionally, like at a weekly summer barbecue, DEET-based bug sprays are not harmful.

Still, if you’d rather steer clear of the chemicals, the EPA does approve of some bug sprays with more natural ingredients – like pepper extract and lemon eucalyptus.

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