There are thousands of articles online that talk about the controversial ingredient known as DEET. We have listed a few below so that you can quickly see that using any repellent containing DEET is a potential health risk. So why take the risk?
What is ?
DEET is an insect repellent that is used in products to prevent bites from insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies, fleas and small flying insects. DEET is a colorless liquid that has a faint odor and does not dissolve easily in water. DEET was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 for protection of soldiers in insect-infested areas.
When products containing DEET get into the eyes, they cause irritation, pain and watery eyes. People that have left DEET products on their skin for extended periods of time have experienced irritation, redness, a rash, and swelling. People that have swallowed products containing DEET have experienced stomach upset, vomiting, and nausea.
When DEET was applied to the skin of volunteers by researchers, they found that a small amount of the DEET was taken into the body through the skin. When DEET and alcohol are applied to the skin, more DEET is taken into the skin compared with DEET alone. Drinking alcohol may also cause more DEET to be absorbed through the skin.
The DEET that is taken in to the body can be found in the blood up to 12 hours after it is applied to the skin.
For at-a-glance information, the activist group Beyond Pesticides keeps its own list of documented DEET health and environmental effects:
- Cancer: Not documented
- Endocrine Disruption: Not documented
- Reproductive Effects: Not documented
- Neurotoxicity: Yes
- Kidney/Liver Damage: Yes
- Sensitizer/Irritant: Yes
- Birth/Developmental Defects: Yes
- Detected in Groundwater: Yes
- Potential Leacher: Yes
- Toxic to Birds: Not documented
- Toxic to Fish/Aquatic Organisms: Not documented
- Toxic to Bees: Not documented
Psychological effects have also been reported to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry including altered mental state, auditory hallucinations, and severe agitation. Heavy exposure to DEET has also been linked to:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Memory loss
- Shortness of breath
- Burning lips
- Temporary numbness
- Difficulty concentrating
These symptoms are sometimes not evident until months or even years after exposure.
EPA requires that child safety claims be removed from all end-use product labels, as they are misleading and irreconcilable with the intended use and pesticidal ingredients of DEET products, and that all DEET labels inform users to take the following precautions:
■ Do not allow young children to apply this product;
■ Do not apply near children’s hands or face;
■ Apply only enough to cover exposed skin and/or clothing;
■ Do not apply over cuts, wounds and irritated skin;
■ Thoroughly wash all treated skin with soap and water after returning indoors;
■ Wash treated clothes before wearing again; and,
■ Do not spray aerosol forms inside. (EPA, 1998)