HEALTH FEATURE ARCHIVE

Mosquitoes Not Impressed

Living in Florida, I am always on the alert for new ways to combat mosquitos. Especially this summer with the increased threat of West Nile virus. Catalogs are full of advertising for devices promising to repel or kill every mosquito if not for miles around, at least in your immediate vicinity.

Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that a Florida company has "made a number of false and unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of its electronic pest repellents and air cleaning products." One of the false claims made is that "...their MosquitoContro devices repel mosquitoes from the user and provide an effective alternative to using chemical pesticides in the prevention of the West Nile Virus...." Perhaps this investigation will dampen the enthusiastic claims being made by other marketers of mosquito-repelling devices.

I know firsthand that it is not pleasant to have to continually spray mosquito-repellant all over ones body but, unfortunately, it remains the most effective way to protect oneself from mosquitoes.

For more, please visit the following MedicineNet.com areas:

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Medical Editor, MedicineNet.com


FTC Alleges Electronic Mosquito Repellent Claims Are False; Sellers Also Lack Evidence For Ultrasonic Pest-Control and Air Cleaning Product Claims

August 28, 2002 -- An Orlando, Florida company has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission with making false and unsubstantiated claims in advertisements for its electronic mosquito and pest repellers and its air cleaning products. According to the FTC, Lentek International, Inc., and its principals, Joseph Durek and Lou Lentine, have advertised that their MosquitoContro devices repel mosquitoes from the user and provide an effective alternative to using chemical pesticides in the prevention of the West Nile Virus; that their pest-control products drive away mice, rats, bats, cockroaches, and other household pests by means of ultrasound and electromagnetic technology; and that their air cleaning products remove various pollutants from indoor air through ozone and ionization. The FTC alleges in an administrative complaint that the respondents do not have competent and reliable evidence to support the claims made for these products, and that the claims for the MosquitoContro device are false.

Lentek International is a manufacturer and distributor of such items as air cleaners, pest-control devices, housewares, pet products, personal care products, and flashlights. These products are sold on the Internet, www.lentek.com, in retail stores and catalogs, and by individual home distributors.

Mosquito Repellers

The respondents have claimed that their battery-operated MosquitoContro products, designed to be worn or placed near the body, create sounds that mimic male mosquitoes and dragonflies, thereby supposedly frightening away the biting female mosquitoes. The MosquitoContro devices, which cost between $10 and $20, include a bracelet, a key chain, and a tabletop model. The FTC's complaint alleges that the respondents have falsely represented that their MosquitoContro products:

  • effectively repel mosquitoes from a user's body; and 
  • are an effective alternative to the use of chemical pesticides or other products formulated to kill or repel mosquitoes in the prevention of West Nile Virus. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ultrasonic products are not effective at preventing mosquito bites. It advises people to:

  • use insect repellent containing DEET, according to the manufacturer's instructions; 
  • wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants; 
  • spread mosquito netting over infant carriers; and 
  • stay indoors at dawn and dusk. 

Pest Repellers

Lentek also markets, under the brand name "PestContro," a variety of pest-control products that are claimed to drive away household pests such as rats, mice and cockroaches. Most of the devices are plug-in or battery operated, and some are sold for outdoor use. The PestContro products purportedly work by emitting ultrasound waves, thereby creating an annoying noise that is audible to certain pests but not to people. The uncomfortable noise supposedly drives pests out of the house or away from an outdoor area. Some PestContro devices also purport to alter the electromagnetic field of household wiring so that pests are driven out of the walls.

According to the FTC's complaint, the respondents do not have a reasonable basis for claims that ultrasound will eliminate or repel pests, including rodents and many insects, from a user's home. The complaint charges as false the respondents' claims that some PestContro devices drive away pests by altering the electromagnetic field of home wiring. In addition, the FTC alleges that the respondents have no basis for their claims that particular devices repel or eliminate pests in a space of a certain size (e.g., 2500 square feet) or that other products repel deer, racoons, skunks, or similar animals from a yard.