Is Pyrethrin a Carcinogen? 5 Safe Alternatives

Pyrethrin is an insecticide that’s toxic, however recent news claim it’s harmful to humans. This is because of the chemical compounds it contains. So, is pyrethrin a carcinogen?

In this article, we’re going to discuss all you need to know. We’ve included a list of 5 safe alternatives, which are just as effective.

Is Pyrethrin Toxic to Humans?

Pyrethrin, also known as pyrethrum, is the byproduct of chemicals found in chrysanthemum. It’s potent against insects, such as mosquitoes, fleas, ants, moths, and the like. Because, it targets their immune system upon contact.

Due to degradation, it is among the safest insecticides for organic gardening. It won’t affect the growth, nor the composition of plants and flowers, as it doesn’t persist in the environment.

Pyrethrin has a low toxicity rate towards humans and animals. Regardless, wear gloves. It can cause irritation, numbness, or burning upon skin contact. Furthermore, prolonged contact may cause headaches and nausea.

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Pyrethrin has been around for years, and continues to be the repellent of households. However, studies claim that pyrethrin may contain carcinogen, which is a substance that promotes cancer.

Is Pyrethrin a Carcinogen?

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease, evidence from animal studies suggests that pyrethroids might cause cancer. It’s also found that large exposure to pyrethrins might affect human reproduction.

However, these tests are only with animals that have been exposed to large amounts of pyrethrins. ATSDR claims that there’s no solid evidence that they can cause cancer.

In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that the carcinogenicity of the most common pyrethroids, fenvalerate, deltamethrin, permethrin, cannot be classified. And, it most likely isn’t a cause for concern.

5 Safe Alternatives

Regardless of whether it is a carcinogen, it’s always better safe than sorry. Here are five alternatives that are proven to be safe for humans:

1. Neem Oil

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  • Cosmetic grade - The oil is high in antioxidant compounds that soothe the skin
  • Organic gardening uses - used in organic gardening to keep plants looking healthy

Neem oil is an all-natural insecticide that comes from the pressed oil of neem fruits and seeds. It acts as a pesticide and fungicide. This means it works both on insects and common fungi growing on vegetable plants.

Some of the most common insects neem oil deter include earthworms, whiteflies, sand flies, aphids, and hornworms. It also controls mildews, leaf spots, wilts, and stem rots. Furthermore, it protects nut trees and other trees from tent caterpillars and fall webworms.

Neem oil shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin. It may cause irritation and allergic reactions. However, regular neem oil is safe and acts as a mosquito deterrent when rubbed on the skin. It likewise promotes hair growth, as it strengthens hair follicles.


  • Doesn’t contain pollutants that are harmful to water
  • Biodegradable/non-toxic
  • Won’t harm bees, butterflies, and ladybugs
  • Effective even after repeated applications
  • Can be used in a variety of formulas, including powders, granules, dust, and liquid

2. Diatomaceous Earth

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Diatomaceous earth is a type of rock that consists of fossilized microbes made into powder. This powder, while harmless to humans, contains microscopic sharp edges. These shred the outer layer of any insect that passes through it, and hard-bodied insects are killed within 24 to 48 hours.

DE is primarily used for soft and hard-bodied insects such as ants, spiders, maggots, and the like. But, it won’t harm microorganisms like worms and honey bees.


  • Food grade DE is non-toxic and edible
  • Works for skin exfoliation
  • Fast-acting
  • Kills most pests

3. Soap Spray

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Soap sprays, also know as insecticidal soaps, are age-old insecticides that have been used by gardeners and farmers for centuries.

Primarily composed of potassium salts and fatty acids, soap sprays deter and kill insects and pests. They do this by drowning them or drying their outer layers out. It’s proven to be quite effective against fleas, mites, scales, chiggers, and earwigs.

The only downside to soap sprays is that it doesn’t work well against hard-bodied insects, such as beetles and caterpillars.

Although soap sprays can be purchased online and in most gardening stores, you can actually make one yourself. Keep in mind that clear dishwashing detergents shouldn’t be used, as they won’t be as effective.

Instead, use soap brands like Ivory Snow, Dr. Bronner’s, Shaklee’s Basic H, or any other non-fragrant soap.

Mix between 1 to 4 tablespoons of soap per gallon of water. Then, directly spray the solution on your plants. If used properly, soap sprays won’t harm your plants.


4. Epsom Salt Pesticide

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Salt sprays are another pesticide you can make at home. Dissolve two tablespoons of Himalayan or Epsom salt with one gallon of water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. That’s it, you now have your very own salt spray mixture!

Along with deterring pests, salt sprays help plants absorb vital nutrients. These include magnesium, sulfur, and phosphorus.

Salt sprays are used to repel or kill insects, which occurs by dehydration. This mixture is dangerous to snails, slugs, and beetles. If you’re facing a heavy insect infestation, a great option is to weekly sprinkle this around the base of your plants.


  • Inexpensive and available
  • Deters pests from feeding off of your plants
  • Beneficial for plants

5. Bacillus Thuringiensis

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  • Contains bacillus thuringiensis - The active ingredient of this product is Bacillus thuringiensis, also known as Bt. Bt is a natural occurring,...

Bacillus thuringiensis is a type of microbe that lives in soil. They create toxic proteins in soil that can be deadly when consumed. Therefore, Bt is used to kill insect larvae, which is quite difficult to kill.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, Bt is used in over 180 pesticide products. It’s often used as sprays, pallets, and granules, most of which are used for organic agriculture.

Bt has a low toxicity rate towards people and other mammals. In fact, studies have found little evidence of sickness due to exposure. Lab rats were fed high doses of Bt for two year, with no signs of cancer. This makes it a great alternative to pyrethrin, and other pesticides.


  • Enhances population of organisms
  • Effective against most pests
  • Improves crop yield
  • Controls soil pollution
  • Doesn’t harm humans or animals

Is Pyrethrin a Carcinogen? – Final Thoughts

At this time, no evidence suggests it is a carcinogen. While it’s generally safe, be careful when handling it. It may cause allergic reactions, rashes, and burns when it comes in contact with skin.

The above alternatives are safe for humans and animals. They’re readily available to be purchased online and in most home improvement stores.

For a complete line of all of our organic pest control products, CLICK HERE!

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