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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note/Natural Insecticide

Air Date: Week of June 21, 2002

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on a new mosquito repellent that’s derived from tomatoes.

Transcript

PENNEY: Just as the summer pest season gets into full swing, scientists have found a new natural weapon against bugs. Researchers at North Carolina State University discovered that a substance from tomatoes repels insects better than the old standby, the chemical commonly known as DEET.



Many Americans use DEET every year. But the chemical can cause irritation and neurological problems in some people. And the EPA does not allow products containing DEET to carry a "safe for children" label.



This new tomato-based repellant is believed to be part of the plant’s own defense system. And the EPA gives it the safest pesticide rating. Researchers discovered the chemical years ago when studying ways to control tomato-eating worms. Then they realized it was similar to synthetic chemicals being developed to control mosquitoes.



In tests, they found the tomato substance repels mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, and other pests such as cockroaches and aphids. Researchers hope to market the new repellant by next year. But in the meantime, don’t go spreading yourself with tomato juice. The chemical repellant is only found in wild tomatoes, not those perfectly ripe, red, round ones at your local market. That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Jessica Penney.



[MUSIC UNDER]



TOOMEY: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.



[MUSIC: MEDESKI, MARTIN & WOOD, "I WANNA RIDE YOU," UNINVISIBLE, BLUE NOTE, 2002]

 

 

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