Last week, I read an article that managed to scare the holy bejebus out of me. It opened with the lines: “They are coming. There is no doubt that they are coming. What we don’t know is when they will come and how many there will be.”
Ominous! The article, not surprisingly, details how this past winter (if you can even call it that) will very possibly lead to summertime insect invasions — mosquitoes in particular — of biblical proportions. So how bad will it get? That’s unclear although pest management companies and public health officials seem to be bracing for the buzzy, bloodsucking worst.
While North America prepares itself for a highly annoying — and possibly deadly — mosquito season, a Spanish chemist named Pilar Mateo has been hard at work for the past 15 years developing a pest-control method meant for use in developing areas of the world constantly affected by mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects: house paint.
Called Inesfly, Mateo’s patented house paint adds a cheery splash of color to disenfranchised communities while combating diseases such as malaria and dengue though cutting-edge microencapsulation technology in which a variety of potent insecticides are blended into the paint itself. The embedded pesticides are released gradually from the exterior or interior paint over a course of two to four years unlike sprays that need to be reapplied more frequently. Plus, these chemical sprays, along with traditional mosquito nets, decidedly lack the aesthetic appeal and community-bolstering properties of a fresh coat of paint. “The paint acts like a vaccine for houses and buildings,” Mateo tells Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
While applying insect-killing additives to house paint isn’t exactly a new concept for DIYers, Inesfly is the first full-on triple-threat house paint/insect killer/insect repellant that harnesses microencapsulation technology and is marketed as an safe and affordable alternative to sprays.
It was recently revealed that Mateo, a trained chemist hailing from a family of paint manufacturers, plans to extend Inesfly operations from Spain to Ghana with the opening of a $13 million dollar production plant that will employ about 500 local workers. The Ghanaian factory would also serve as the company's African distribution hub, meaning that the paint will no longer have to be imported at a higher cost from the existing manufacturing facility in Spain. In addition to securing approval from the Ghana Standards Authority and Environmental Protection Agency, Inesfly has been approved for use in 15 countries including Germany and China. The good doctor is awaiting a recommendation from the World Health Organization and approval in the U.S., where she plans to launch a partnership to manufacture and distribute the paint.
Thus far, Mateo has primarily focused on developing Latin American and African countries where she’s helped to paint more than 8,000 homes. In 1998, Mateo first tested her technology in Bolivia in an effort to combat not malaria or dengue but Chagas disease, a parasitic disease that’s spread through a bloodsucking insect known as vinchucas, AKA the Mexican bedbug. “It’s not just the insects that are the problem. It’s the poverty,” says Mateo. “We spend all this time talking about medicines and diseases when the primary problem for half the planet is that their homes are sick.”
Of course, any product that slowly releases powerful pesticides — Mateo gets hers from massive chemical companies such as Bayer, BASF, and Dow AgroSciences — inevitably leads to questions of safety. Through independent testing, Inesfly has been proven to be safe to humans while maintaining its powerful, insect-killing and repelling properties. The microcapsule technology allows various specialized formulas of pesticides to be blended together without actually interacting and canceling one another out. Additionally, the technology means that a lower — and most importantly, safer — volume of chemicals is needed.
Sounds good to me. I’m interested to see if Inesfly will eventually get the green light in the U.S. considering the mosquito apocalypse that's currently upon us. Now all we need are some clever paint names to appeal to the swatch-obsessed masses: West Nile Violet, BASF Beige, or Anti-Malaria Mauve, anyone?
Via [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]