Deet Bug Repellent ‘Toxic Worry’
August 5, 2009
Scientists have expressed safety concerns about insect repellents that contain Deet after observing the chemical’s toxic effects in mammals.
Deet has been in use for decades and is found in most of the commonly used repellents to ward off mosquitoes.
Others dismissed the concerns saying deet posed no risk when used correctly.
The study in the open access journal BioMed Central Biology shows deet works in the same way as paralysing nerve gases used in warfare.
However, experts cautioned that the findings in animals could not be translated to humans.
Deet (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) was developed by the US Army in 1946 following its experience of jungle warfare during the second world war, then registered for use by the general public in 1957.
About 200 million people use deet-based repellents every year and over 8 billion doses have been applied over the past 50 years.
Products containing deet are available in a variety of liquids, lotions and sprays that are applied to the skin to repel insects rather than kill them.
As a precaution, experts advise people to only use enough repellent to cover exposed skin or clothing and caution that repellent should not be applied to cuts, wounds or irritated skin.