The Buzz on DEET. Nature vs. Pesticide

Jul 10 2015

What is DEET? Deet (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide), a slightly yellow chemical oil, is a common active ingredient in insect repellent. Over the last 45 years, billions of people worldwide have used various forms of DEET to effectively repel mosquitos. But before your next slathering or spritzing of conventional bug spray, read on. The History of DEET The origin of DEET is credited to the United States Army. It was formulated in response to the Army’s jungle warfare experiences of World War II. Originally tested as an agricultural pesticide, the Army implemented the widespread use of DEET in 1946. The chemical became available to the public in 1957 with the mass production of creams, lotions and aerosols. Today, over 33% of the U.S. population utilizes a DEET-based application in one form or another. How DEET Works DEET was originally believed to block the olfactory senses of insects, thereby prohibiting the detection of humans via the sense of smell. However, recent studies at the University of California have proven the chemical’s smell is actually the deterrent. A 2013 study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found DEET works very well with the product’s first application. Subsequent applications, however, have proven to be less effective, as mosquitos’ tolerance to the chemical’s scent increases. Is DEET really safe? Although recognized and approved by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the use of DEET is not without controversy. Health and environmental warnings abound regarding the chemical. There have been reported incidences of toxicity exposure. Neurological symptoms include: dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, seizures, and even death. Additional potential side effects include: birth/developmental risks, kidney/liver damage, neurotoxicity, and dermal irritation. The CDC does not recommend use of DEET in children under two months of age, and the suggested usage on children ages […]