Neem oil is a popular organic pesticide and medicinal oil that has been used for centuries. However, there are concerns about its safety, particularly when it comes to inhalation.
In this article, we will explore the question of whether neem oil is toxic to breathe. We’ll take a closer look at the properties of neem oil, how it can be harmful if inhaled, and what precautions you can take to minimize your exposure.
So, if you’re curious about the potential risks of using neem oil, read on to find out more.
Is Neem Oil Toxic To Breathe?
Neem oil is not volatile and does not give off fumes, which means that it is generally safe to breathe. However, there are some precautions that you should take to avoid inhaling the oil.
If you are spraying neem oil, you might smell it, but you do not usually inhale the oil. If you do inhale a little of the spray itself, it should not harm you unless you are sensitive to neem or inhale enough to cause irritation by the particles.
People can be exposed to chemicals by eating them, breathing them in, through skin contact, and eye contact. Since neem oil is used on a variety of crops, people are mainly exposed to neem oil in their diet. People who apply neem oil may also be exposed if they inhale the mist or dust, let the product touch their skin, or fail to wash their hands before eating or smoking.
However, the label includes directions for keeping exposure low. For example, the label might require applicators to wear protective clothing.
What Is Neem Oil?
Neem oil is a vegetable oil that is pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree, which is native to the Indian subcontinent but has been introduced to many other areas in the tropics. It is the most important of the commercially available products of neem and is used for organic farming and medicines.
The neem tree is scientifically known as Azadirachta indica A. Juss, also commonly called the margosa tree. In its pure state, neem oil has a strong, garlicky odor and is a dark yellow color. For many years, neem oil has been used in India as a natural pesticide as well as medicinally to improve the immune system, digestive system, and for detox purposes.
The seed kernels (and pure pressed oil) of the neem tree contain a variety of active components that contribute to its pest and fungus-fighting properties, but the most powerful is called azadirachtin. Azadirachtin wreaks havoc on insects’ hormones and behaviors that are driven by those hormones while being relatively harmless to humans and animals.
Neem oil leaves behind no toxic buildup or residue and is completely biodegradable, making it a highly effective alternative to synthetic insecticides and fungicides for both indoor gardening and commercial farming.
Properties Of Neem Oil
Neem oil is a vegetable oil obtained from the seed kernels of the neem tree, which is native to the tropics and sub-tropics. It is deep yellow in color and has a garlic-like odor. Neem oil contains active ingredients like azadirachtin, nimbin, picrin, and sialin. Azadirachtin, a complex tetranortriterpenoid, is implicated in causing the effects seen in neem oil poisoning.
While neem oil has many helpful properties, including pest control, it can be irritating to the eyes and skin, especially when undiluted. It is important to wear gloves when mixing and applying neem oil to plants to avoid skin irritation. Additionally, neem oil can be damaging to the stomach if ingested, so it should never be consumed.
However, neem oil has a low toxicity rating for humans and is minimally harmful to beneficial wildlife, such as pollinators. It also has no toxic buildup and breaks down completely after being applied to plants, so there are no lasting harmful effects of using it on indoor or outdoor plants.
Bark extracts of the neem tree have been used to treat peptic ulcers. Neem oil is larvicidal against mosquitoes and neem seed extracts are pesticidal and have been used in the treatment of head lice. Margosa oil, a long-chain fatty acid extracted from the seeds of the neem tree, has been reported to cause toxic encephalopathy in some cases. However, this is a rare occurrence and can be avoided by following proper safety precautions when handling neem oil.
How Neem Oil Can Be Harmful If Inhaled
While neem oil is generally safe to breathe, inhaling it can be harmful under certain circumstances. Neem oil contains azadirachtin, a natural insecticide that can cause respiratory problems if inhaled in large quantities. Dogs, for example, can have difficulty breathing if they inhale neem oil.
In addition, neem oil can cause eye and skin irritation in dogs and humans alike. Symptoms of neem oil toxicity include diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, respiratory distress, lethargy, and convulsions.
To avoid inhaling neem oil, it is important to follow the label instructions carefully. Applicators should wear protective clothing to minimize exposure, and people should avoid inhaling the mist or dust when applying neem oil. If you do inhale neem oil, seek medical attention immediately if you experience any adverse symptoms.
Symptoms Of Neem Oil Inhalation
While neem oil is generally safe to breathe, inhaling large amounts of neem oil particles can cause irritation and harm. Symptoms of neem oil inhalation can include:
– Shortness of breath
– Chest tightness
– Irritation of the throat and lungs
In rare cases, neem oil inhalation can lead to more serious symptoms such as:
If you experience any of these symptoms after inhaling neem oil, seek medical attention immediately. It is important to note that neem oil poisoning is rare in adults, but caution should still be taken to avoid inhaling large amounts of the oil. As with any chemical, it is important to follow the label directions and wear protective clothing when handling neem oil.
Precautions To Minimize Exposure To Neem Oil
To minimize exposure to neem oil, it is important to follow the label directions precisely. Here are some precautions that you can take:
1. Wear protective clothing: When applying neem oil, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat that can be washed after each use. Also, wear gloves to avoid any oily drips.
2. Avoid contact with eyes: Neem oil can cause mild skin or eye irritation if it comes into direct contact. Therefore, it is essential to avoid contact with eyes and wear eye protection.
3. Minimize inhalation: Although neem oil is not volatile and does not give off fumes, it is still important to minimize inhalation. Use the spray in well-ventilated areas and avoid spraying on windy days.
4. Wash hands thoroughly: After using neem oil, wash your hands well with soap and water before eating or smoking.
5. Wait for the mist to dry: If you are using neem oil on plants in your garden, make sure to spray before the time pollinators come out to allow it drying time, or apply in the evening once your pollinators have retreated to hives and homes. Light mists will dry within 45 minutes to an hour because that’s how long neem oil’s moisture lasts when mixed with water.
By following these precautions, you can minimize your exposure to neem oil and ensure that it is used safely for both you and the environment.
Safe Use Of Neem Oil As A Pesticide Or Medicinal Oil
Neem oil is a safe and effective natural pesticide and fungicide that can be used on indoor and outdoor plants to control a variety of garden pests. It is also used in traditional medicine due to its many bioactive properties. However, it is important to use neem oil safely to avoid any potential health risks.
Firstly, always follow the label instructions carefully when using neem oil as a pesticide or medicinal oil. This includes wearing protective clothing such as gloves and a mask to prevent skin contact and inhalation of the mist or dust.
Secondly, avoid using neem oil on plants that are in bloom or on plants that are attracting bees or other pollinators. While neem oil is not harmful to bees and other pollinators, it can still interfere with their ability to pollinate plants if applied during flowering.
Thirdly, avoid using neem oil near bodies of water such as ponds or streams. While neem oil is non-toxic to most aquatic organisms, it can still be harmful to fish and other aquatic animals if applied directly to the water.
Lastly, always store neem oil in a cool, dry place away from children and pets. Neem oil should be kept out of reach of children and pets as it can be harmful if ingested.