by John Biggs
• For those of you relieved to have found natural products containing citronella that actually work to repel bugs – so you could avoid using Deet – you had better stock up. These products are in the process of being axed by Health Canada. Better yet, do something about it. Call your MP or protest directly to Health Canada or to the Health Minister.
The reason these safe citronella products are being ordered off the market – even as Deet has caused so many side effects and is still widely available – involves establishment manipulation of science. You see, citronella contains a substance called methyleugenol. When methyleugenol on its own was administered internally to mice – via a stomach tube – tumours arose at multiple sites. http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/ twelfth/profiles/Methyleugenol.pdf Oral administration and intraperitoneal injections in rats produced similar results. The conclusion that was reached and publicized right off the top is that methyleugenol is “Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” so citronella is being pulled based on “reasonable anticipation.” But there are problems with Health Canada’s rationale. Humans applying citronella oil to their skin is obviously not the equivalent of forcing oral ingestion of one of its isolated constituents into the stomachs of mice/rats or injecting it into their body cavities, (i.e. methyleugenol). In addition to the obvious reasons, when it comes to natural substances, the whole simply doesn’t equal the sum of the parts.
To illustrate this, consider a presentation given by Bruce Ames, PhD., at the Seventh International Symposium on Functional Medicine. Bruce Ames is the scientist who came up with the Ames Test for carcinogenicity. Using this test, you can take a compound and assess its potential to cause gene mutations and based on the outcome, you can determine how likely it is to cause cancer, or not. According to Dr. Ames, you have to be careful about drawing conclusions from this and he used fruits and vegetables to make this point. He noted that, if you take any fruit or vegetable and break it down into its constituent compounds and test them individually, invariably about half of them will cause cancer (i.e. test positive), yet fruits and vegetables themselves don’t cause cancer. They are, in fact, protective against cancer. Thus, the effect of the whole cannot be assessed from the parts and you definitely can’t draw direct conclusions from one constituent.
Likewise, you can’t draw accurate conclusions about citronella by testing isolated methyleugenol. But, of course, outcomes from the Ames test on methyleugenol are being used as evidence to withdraw citronella even though methyleugenol can be found in bananas, black pepper and bilberries and the EPA in the US considers citronella to be safe (www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/3105red.pdf)
The amount of double-speak surrounding the issue is incredible. Even though topical preparations of citronella are being pulled and Canadian health stores have had product seized and verbal stop-sale warnings have been issued to suppliers, citronella’s addition to cigarettes is just fine because it doesn’t increase carcinogenicity. (See “toxicity” heading at this link: http://tobaccoinformation.bhp.doh.gov.tw/toxicfolder/011.%E5 %B8%9D%E5%9C%8B%E8%8F%B8%E8%8D%89/057.pdf ). And when talking about Deet carcinogenicity, despite Swedish human studies showing that an increased rate of exposure increased testicular cancer, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/consultations/deet/carcinogenicity.html, the conclusion stated: “Interpret the results with caution” and “These data do not necessarily suggest that long-term use of DEET could cause testicular cancer.“ Also take a look at the “Health Effects in Humans” tab at this link where it states: “Case reports of toxicity from DEET exposure have been documented in the medical literature and range in severity from mild skin irritation to death.” Death! Or as reported on ABC’s Primetime Live segment on the issue: rashes, dizziness and seizures in adults and brain disorders, seizures and even (yes) death in children from Deet. See also http://www.toxicsinfo.org/pests/lyme_deet.htm
Compare this to the documented side effects for citronella; www.webmd.com states, “Citronella oil seems to be safe for most people when applied to the skin as an insect repellent. However, it might cause skin allergies in some people.” www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-627-CITRONELLA%20OIL.aspx?activeIngredientId=627 &activeIngredientName=CITRONELLA%20OIL
Hmmm, skin allergies versus death for documented side effects – and the one that produces death is still on the market.
To approve a natural health product, Health Canada requires two human trials to approve its claim even if there is a mountain of test-tube evidence for one or more of its constituents. But to pull citronella, it is using “reasonable anticipation” that one of its constituents may pose a threat to humans. Of course, “may” automatically implies “may not” and there’s zero actual data that citronella is dangerous to humans.
But it doesn’t end there. Suppose you say, “OK, I won’t use citronella topically, I’ll just use it on patches stuck to my clothes, something many have found very effective.” Well, Health Canada is ordering these off the market as well. So I found it no coincidence when I recently saw a commercial for Johnson & Johnson’s OFF repellent clip-on device. Now, it is all starting to make sense.
Do you get the picture? The boom has come from above and multi-nationals/pharmaceutical companies have Health Canada in their back pocket. And the agency is only too willing to comply because after all, if we get another West-Nile scare, bug-repellent will be big business. Given methyleugenol’s presence in several other essential oils, such as rose, basil, anise and nutmeg to name a few, don’t be surprised if these also come under attack in the future. Once again, bureaucratic regulation based on a false premise of public protection is being used to make competition for the big boys illegal. Sound familiar? It’s happening to our supplements as well.
How far, as Canadians, are we willing to let this go, without holding our politicians and bureaucrats accountable? If this upsets you, do something about it. Call your government offices and let them know exactly how you feel, politely of course, and remember to request a response.
Find your MP using your postal code: www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/ HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC
Contact the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health at 613-957-0200 by email: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/contact/ahc-asc/minist-eng.php,
or write to:
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
Brooke Claxton Building, Tunney’s Pasture
Postal Locator: 0906C
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K9
Contact Glenda Yeates, Deputy Minister of Health at 613-957-0212, or www.hc-sc.gc.ca/contact/ahc-asc/deputy-sous-eng.php, or write to:
Deputy Minister’s Office
(See address above for the Health Minister)
John Biggs (BSc, NCP) is a nutritional consulting practitioner and the owner of Optimum Health Vitamins in Alberta. www.optimumhealthvitamins.com
photo © Food-micro