“DEET is a registered pesticide. DEET is short for N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (also known as N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide). It is a member of the toluene chemical family. Toluene is an organic solvent used in rubber and plastic cements and paint removers. DEET is absorbed through the skin and passes into the blood. The Medical Sciences Bulletin, published by Pharmaceutical Information Associates Ltd. reports, “Up to 56% of DEET applied topically penetrates intact human skin and 17% is absorbed into the bloodstream.” Blood concentrations of about 3 mg per litre have been reported several hours after DEET repellent was applied to skin in the prescribed fashion. DEET is also absorbed by the gut.”
Scientists have discovered that not only can DEET itself affect the central nervous system, but combined with permethrin, which is another ingredient in mosquito repellents, it can lead to learning and memory dysfunction and motor deficits. DEET may also be significantly more toxic when combined with ethyl and isopropyl alcohols and Freon, which are also in some DEET repellents.
Products containing DEET are required to have specific instructions and warnings, such as:
- Not to use on children under 6 months of age
- For children between 6 months and 2 years of age, only concentrations of less than 10% DEET should be used and only once a day.
- For children between the ages of 2 -12, only concentrations of less than 10% should be used no more than 3 times a day.
- DEET concentrations over 30% have been banned by Health Canada, mentioning health risks and evidence that increasing the percentage doesn’t do anything more to repel insects. As well, two in one products that contain both DEET and sunscreen have been banned by Health Canada because they create the potential for people to be exposed to too much DEET at one time.
“Products containing DEET are now required to carry labels which specify:
- Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
- Do not allow young children to apply this product.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
- Do not use under clothing.
- Do not spray in enclosed areas.”
- Wear long pants and long sleeves when possible
- Apply repellent only to clothing
- Use sparingly; saturation does not increase efficiency
- Not inhale product
- Wash repellent-treated clothes or keep them outside
*Following these precautions reduces risk, but does not eliminate it!