Thoughts on permethrin and the first precept


In the same Sutta on taints you quote above there is a section on taints to be abandoned by “using”. There it is stated what is appropriate use of requisites, and this includes using robes for protection from mosquitoes. So overall I see a middle way recommended- take reasonable precautions to avoid mosquito bites, but don’t overreact if bites happen. Seems to me that modern knowledge can inform us so we can determine what is reasonable and what is overreacting - each for ourselves.


There is a natural way to prevent mosquitoes coming near you, and that is to use the Citronella Spray. You can apply the spray to your hands and feet and around you and the flies will not come near you. I use that when meditating at retreats.


As for the pyrethrum, I doubt it will actually kill the mozzies as they don’t like it and will fly away. i think they would have to park on your treated clothing for some time to actually be injured or killed, and they won’t do that. But it is not necessary to soak your clothes. I have lived in Sri Lanka for a number of years, most recently about four years ago. A lot of exposure to mosquitoes will depend on where you live. if you are in Kandy, up in the highlands there are fewer mosquitoes and less dengue. Colombo area is the worst for dengue. The Sri Lankan government is taking a very aggressive approach to dengue in an effort to eradicate it. They keep maps of where outbreaks are occurring and then send government agents into those areas to go house to house to inspect and make sure people are observing the rules around not having stagnant water (where the mozzies breed) around their homes etc. There are fines for those who are careless, so it is no joke and it rather effective. When we were there it had the effect of limiting the areas of Dengue outbreaks, so the fever was not widespread at that time. My opinion of treating clothing is that it is not necessary and not the first line of defense. In my years in Sri Lanka, I can’t remember having a mosquito buzz me when I was out and around. The main problem comes in your home or in the homes of other people. If there are no screens on your windows (they call them window ‘nets’) you can find a way to have them installed. We did it ourselves, getting the nets at a local hardware store and measuring them, cutting them to fit and tacking them up. After that, we hardly saw a mosquito in the house. We were on the ground floor. The second line of defense is a mosquito net, and they are easy to buy and not expensive, big enough for a single or double bed. No need to treat them with any chemicals. The net works just fine to keep the mozzies out if in good repair. You can buy mosquito coils as well. They are like long spirals of incense and burn for a few hours. However, I find them to be toxic. They give me headaches, and if you read the ingredients, it is not nice. They can be used in an emergency, maybe if you are staying overnight in a room full of mozzies (they hide in dark places) and you can light a coil, leave the doors and windows open and it will drive them off. Then you can put the coil out and close up the room. It will not kill the mozzies. They hate the smoke and get out. And agreed that malaria is not an issue in Sri Lanka. Not sure if they have eradicated it completely, but it is not widespread. If you get it, go see a doctor and they will take care of you. But hopefully it is gone. Good luck. Sri Lanka is a wonderful country, lovely scenery and very nice, kind, and intelligent people.


I forgot to add that while in Sri Lanka it is good to avail yourself of the free Ayurvedic clinics and hospitals throughout the country. I visited our neighborhood clinic any time I had some health issue come up. They gave me herbal medicines and medicinal oils all for free. I tried to pay them but they refused payment. the doctor at my clinic spoke excellent English. They have medicines to alleviate dengue fever and to boost the immune system and support the body in its healing. I never got dengue, but I asked about it there. Allopathic (western) medicine has no treatment fro dengue but can assist if you develop complications due to the fever. There are private clinics all over Sri Lanka with competent MDs and the prices are not expensive by western standards. There there are also free clinics and hospitals for allopathic medicine and the local people go to those. You may have to wait in line for their services, as they serve the poor people, but they are also very helpful and kind. The private clinics cost money (but not much), and everything goes quickly. Our system in Sri Lanka was to go for the Ayurvedic medicine first, which usually worked and then go for the allopathic medicine if the ayurvedic wasn’t working as we hoped. Wishing you good health. With metta and best wishes.


Here is a WHO document that explains the elimination of malaria in Sri Lanka for those curious. Seems that it was eliminated in 2012 and certified by WHO in 2016.

One “net innovation” I noticed on my last trip was net tents made for beds. Basically just had a thin wire frame that made the net dome up. If you don’t have much experience using nets (and your bed doesn’t have a good headboard) they might be a better option.


My only concern about citronella is I have a friend who is allergic to it. Simply being around someone else wearing it affects him. Myself I have no effects, but I wish to avoid discomfort to others. OLE seems to be less problematic In that way. On the other hand, my impression (still quite limited) is that Sri Lanka is not especially suitable for the chemically-sensitive, given the prevalence of incense burning.


A point of clarification: My original question was about permethrin, not pyrethrum. A brew made from crushed chrysanthemum flowers may very well have volatiles in it that discourage insects from coming in contact with its more toxic (to insects) components, but that doesn’t apply to the synthetic pyrethroids, like permethrin.


For what it’s worth there are several new chemicals discovered since DEET and citronella (including the OLE you mentioned, which is quite good) which are both more repellent and less caustic. I especially recommend icaridin


That is a wonderful perspective–that one should give warning of lethality. It’s a skillful dual defense. Those mosquitoes who ignore the warning fly into death. Those that heed the warning live in a respectful balance. :open_mouth: :heart:

Thank you for this new perspective on an ancient problem!
:mosquito: :shield: :skull: :meditation:


Hi Tara
In that case, there are other repellents available with chemists. But if you and your friend are going to meditate, then can use a mosquito net. I use the net in the morning in my meditation time. Incense burning you only find in front of Buddha statues or Sthupas or near Ficus Trees (BO Tree). Also since we have so much of wind, the fumes hardly stay on but dissipate.


Just to clarify, I don’t know this for a fact, I’m just interpolating from the earlier poster’s observation that insects avoid contact with pyrethrum, which is known to contain a neurotoxin (for insects).


me either, but your post encouraged me to broaden my awareness of the issues. :smiley: