The camping and outdoor equipment retail chain Partioaitta has stopped selling a popular mosquito repellent device produced by Thermacell, after allegations spread on social media that the equipment may be harmful to the environment.
The decision to pull the product from shelves was made as a precautionary measure, Partioaitta's Product Manager Markus Mäkinen said, as the chain awaits further information on the product's environmental impact.
"Based on customer feedback, we decided that as a responsible retailer, we should withdraw the device from sale until we receive additional information," Mäkinen said.
Partioaitta has submitted a request to the importer of the device to investigate any potential environmental impact.
The concerns expressed by customers are particularly related to the device's effects on biodiversity, Mäkinen said.
If the allegations that the device is harmful to the environment prove to be unfounded, the retailer will consider restocking the device. However, that decision will be made separately at a later date.
"If there is even a small possibility that there are problems, we would rather wait for the results of the investigations," Mäkinen added.
Importer: Device is safe
Tom Kreutzman of Proviter, the company that imports Thermacell equipment into Finland, emphasised to Yle that the device has been approved by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes)
"When used according to the instructions, the device is safe for humans, the environment and insects," Kreutzman said, adding that the company is only aware of one retailer that has withdrawn the products from sale.
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"I have also not received any reports that would contradict what we are saying about the product," Kreutzman pointed out.
The import company also emphasised the importance of a discussion on the subject, with Kreutzman saying he suspects that Thermacell-branded devices have come to the forefront of the debate because the device has been widely marketed.
According to the Finnish forestry administration Metsähallitus' luontoon.fi website, the active ingredients of the vapourised insecticides are toxic to aquatic organisms and pollinators, and they should not be used near flowering plants or nests of pollinating insects.
Chemistry professor: "I don't use it"
The Thermacell vapouriser contains prallethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide that resembles the insect repellent secreted by some chrysanthemums.
"These are dangerous chemicals," Petri Pihko, professor of chemistry at the University of Jyväskylä, told Yle. "Although they are not dangerous to humans, this substance is very dangerous to fish, frogs and pollinating insects."
Pihko added that specialists have questioned whether it is really necessary to use these substances.
"Even just one of these repellents contains so much active ingredient that it could kill millions of bees. Of course, such a situation will not happen in real life for this to happen, but such a quantity of the substance is there," Pihko said.
Pihko added he would not use a mosquito repellent vapouriser.
"I had one, but I gave it up because of the possible environmental impact. There are other mosquito repellents available - they are poisons too, but not as bad as prallethrin. I’d rather suffer a few mosquito bites and know that I can continue to pick blueberries and cloudberries from the forest," he said.