The move has left scientists who advised Health Canada on the issue befuddled by the ban. So are many consumers who prefer natural bug sprays over ones with synthetic chemicals like DEET.
'It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand'- Sam Kacew, Toxicologist"It's the basis of the ban that I don't really understand,” says toxicologist Sam Kacew.
Insect repellents are considered pesticides so they must meet strict safety standards. In 2004, Health Canada proposed phasing out citronella-based bug sprays because of new questions about its safety.
Small manufacturers who couldn't afford to submit detailed safety data saw their lines discontinued at the end of 2012. Those who submitted what data they could and tried to challenge the ban are now to see their products phased out at the end of this year.
In 2005, Kacew sat on an independent scientific panel to review Health Canada’s position. He says the panel believed the study that led the government to question citronella’s safety was flawed, in part because it examined what happened when rodents ingested the oil. “Humans are not going to drink citronella,” he says.
The department told CBC that “the panel supported Health Canada’s approach,” but Kacew refutes that. He says the team of scientists concluded that citronella was safe as long as it didn't contain methyl eugenol, an impurity that could be a potential carcinogen. “In general, most of these citronella oils that were available for us to examine did not contain impurities, and they were regarded by us to be basically safe,” he says.
Once again the small producer using time proven natural products looses to the multinational chemical companies because they cannot 'prove' their product is not harmful. Meanwhile said companies continue to churn out more pesticides that approved after very limited and less than independent testing. Wonder when the Citronella plant will become a 'noxious weed' or illegal to grow?