Net Safety – a burning issue

When we think about safety matters and insecticide treated bednets our first thoughts often go to the chemicals.  As Jamali has observed, “Pyrethroids form the mainstay of preventive measures due to their efficacy and safety in mammals.” Barlow and colleagues pointed out some time ago that while deltamethrin may have some dermal effects, the rick was much lower than the benefit.

More recently there has been concern expressed about health and environmental implications of disposing or re-purposing old nets. One approach has been to treat an old net, even is it has little effective insecticide left, just like a used pesticide container. In reality the potential effects of nets used for unintended purposes, or large collections of nets in community disposal sites are not well researched yet.

dscn1231a.jpgA recent article from Uganda in The Observer has drawn our attention to an important and seemingly neglected aspect of net safety – fire. One of the doctors interviewed shared that a “majority of the cases of burns he handles are as a result of mosquito nets catching fire. He says although rarely talked about, nets are the worst agent of fire that can burn children.” The article further explained …

“Mosquito nets made of polyester are particularly dangerous; when it catches fire and wraps around someone, it causes deep, severe burns. When distributing free mosquitoes nets in the fight malaria campaign, no one is teaching people about safety and how dangerous they are with fire.”

There are many sources of open fire in village homes – lanterns, candles, stoves. Living, cooking and sleeping space may be at a premium and rooms may serve multiple functions, increasing potential fire exposure.

There is a lot we need to do to educate net owners about their nets – even the basics of how to hang and net and when to use are often forgotten in the rush to hand out thousands of nets during a campaign.  In this case we need to be extra vigilant to ensure that a commodity intended for protection from harm does not itself become a death trap.

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